Costs and revenues of transformation to continuous cover forestry: Modelling silvicultural options with Sitka spruce

A recent study by Forest Research has shown that transformation to continuous cover forestry (CCF) can be a good economic option compared with clearfelling and replanting (C&R): see the Study report (PDF-691K) . It is hoped the findings of the work will alleviate concerns that transformation to CCF is always a costly option.

The study examined the costs and revenues associated with three transformation scenarios for a stand of Sitka spruce (GYC14) and compared them with conventional C&R. A flexible yield model was used to predict the growing stock and harvesting yields for programmes of thinnings which follow current guidance. Detailed information on the costs of operations was obtained from work study reports, England Woodland Grant Scheme standard costs and the experience of Forestry Commission staff in CCF Trial Areas.

Transformation scenarios were less costly than C&R over a 20-year period because of high initial thinning returns. In the longer term, transformation to a simple CCF structure was similar to or better than C&R if successful natural regeneration could be obtained. The results were tested for their sensitivity to changes in the level of management overheads (assumed to be higher for transformation), product prices and discount rate. The changes investigated had relatively little effect on the ranking of scenarios.

The report is accompanied by an Analysis spreadsheet (MS Excel®-3813K) that enables practitioners and policy makers to change input costs, product specifications, roadside prices and the discount rate to suit their local conditions.

The work was completed on behalf of the Forestry Commission’s Working Group on CCF.