to Forestry Commission home page
to Forest Research home page
Forest Research home > Research > Forest management > Managing resilient forests > Resources and guidance on managing resilient forests

What is a silvicultural system?

A silvicultural system is the process of tending, harvesting and regenerating a forest. Different objectives in forest management (e.g. conservation in an ancient semi-natural woodland vs. production of timber from a conifer plantation) are likely to lead to the adoption of different silvicultural systems.

Classifying silvicultural systems

There are many different types of silvicultural systems and a broad classification can be made based on the pattern of regeneration and how the tree canopy is removed. Generally forests managed using clear felling and shelterwood systems tend to be even-aged (only possess one or two canopy strata) and those managed using selection systems are uneven-aged (have three or more canopy strata).

Classification diagram of silvicultural systems (8K)

Photographs of examples of the different systems

  • Patch clear felling of Hamsterley Forest
    Patch clear felling of Hamsterley Forest
  • Douglas fir managed using a group shelterwood system at the Longleat Estate
    Douglas fir managed using a group shelterwood system at the Longleat Estate
  • Scots pine managed using a uniform shelterwood system at the Crown Estate, Swinley
    Scots pine managed using a
    uniform shelterwood system at the Crown Estate, Swinley
  • Beech managed using a group shelterwood system in the Chilterns
    Beech managed using a
    group shelterwood system in the Chilterns
  • A single tree selection system with European silver fir, Norway spruce, beech and ash at La Joux Pélichet in the Swiss Jura
    A single tree selection system with European silver fir, Norway spruce, beech and ash at La Joux Pélichet in the Swiss Jura
  • Beech managed using a group selection system at Ebworth Estate, Gloucestershire
    Beech managed using a group selection system at Ebworth Estate, Gloucestershire