Transformation to Continuous Cover Forestry

The approach - adaptive management

Adaptive management is proposed as one way of carrying out Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) successfully. Adaptive management means basing silvicultural interventions on stand level information, monitoring what happens and learning from the results. It is a simple two-stage process:

  1. Collecting useful stand level data cost effectively
  2. Using that information to specify silvicultural interventions.

The data from the monitoring aims to provide information on trees, regeneration, browsing impacts and vegetation; balancing these factors is the essential skill of good CCF.

Why adopt adaptive management?

For even-aged stands in Britain most thinning and clearfelling is fairly prescriptive so that minimal stand level data need to be collected. This allows forest management to be organized quickly and efficiently over large areas. CCF is so different to even-aged management that our approach to collection of stand level data must be changed. We are convinced that if you practise ‘adaptive management’ you are far more likely to be successful with CCF for the following reasons.

  • To be successful with CCF, managers must be able to understand the dynamics of the forests being transformed to CCF – stand level information on trees and regeneration is essential for this.
  • Most foresters understand that no stand of trees is the same because of subtle changes in site and silvicultural characteristics of different tree and shrub species. Successful CCF will only be achieved if these are taken into account.
  • The system of monitoring described in these pages creates an objective, permanent record of the stand being transformed to CCF that is credible to outside scrutiny and the logic of silvicultural interventions can be recorded.  This is particularly valuable for ensuring continuity of management where there may be staff changes.

Barriers to wider usage

Although adaptive management has been readily adopted by some, it has met resistance from others; understandably the main concern is cost.  Not all stands require full monitoring and in many cases the information will be of most use when the stand starts to regenerate.

Based on experience of monitoring so far a reasonable cost seems to be in the region of £4.75 to £9.50 ha-1 yr-1 to collect the data and enter into the software.  Obviously costs will vary widely, however, as shown in the table below these costs can be reduced by increasing the unit area, reducing the frequency of monitoring, only assessing the regeneration, or with great care, using the results from one sample area to help manage other similar areas.  However, perhaps the best way of reducing the cost is to understand the value of the information produced and use it to bring about successful CCF management.

Costs of monitoring according to different scenarios
(Based on £16 plot for full monitoring and £11.20 for regeneration only; 27 plots for 10 ha. and 35 plots for 25 ha., see Forestry Commission Information Note 45)
  Cost (£ ha-1 year-1)
10 ha. 25 ha. 10 ha. as an exemplar of 100 ha.
Every 5 years




Every 10 years with regeneration every 5 years




Every 10 years




Trying adaptive management

Software to support transformation to Continuous Cover ForestryIf you would like to trial how adaptive management can help you achieve successful CCF, a monitoring system has been developed by Forest Research and software to support this has been produced that incorporates elements of decision support. The monitoring software, User Guide and Forestry Commission Information Note 45 which describes the system in detail is available free from Forest Research.

Future versions of the software could integrate with GIS systems, allow input of electronic data collected in the field and offer a greater level of decision support.


Should you require help and/or advice on interpretation of data that you have collected please contact:

This information was first published in the January 2005 edition of Forestry and British Timber

What's of interest

FC Information Note 45
Monitoring the Transformation of Even-aged Stands to Continuous Cover Management

Forestry Commission Information Note 45 describes the approach in detail

Software to support the transformation to Continuous Cover Forestry
to support the transformation to Continuous Cover Forestry is available free from Forest Research.