Regeneration of continuous cover forests

Dense regeneration of Sitka spruce under a canopy Seedlings of ash in a W8 woodland Sitka spruce seedlings in moss


  • To determine the key factors influencing the success of natural regeneration and underplanting and how they will be affected by climate change
  • To specify best practice for underplanting when using continuous cover silviculture.


Transformation of forests to continuous cover management requires successful establishment and growth of seedlings beneath a canopy, and their subsequent recruitment into the overstorey.

This can be achieved by natural regeneration or by planting. Previously the focus of work in the project has been on natural regeneration and this has shown that for the best chances of success with natural regeneration you need:

  • A good supply of seed
  • A receptive seedbed for germination
  • Favourable stand conditions (Hale, 2004)
  • To control competitive weeds
  • Little or no browsing.

Guidance on using natural regeneration in continuous cover forests can be found in ( Kerr 2008).

Other work in the project has developed a simple method to assess the likelihood of natural regeneration of Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Douglas-fir and larch. Full details of this method and how managers can apply it in the field are reported respectively in the following papers:

Current work areas

Current work is now focussing on underplanting:

  • A comparison of the growth and survival of planted Douglas fir seedlings in restocking and underplanting situations and relationships with micro-environment conditions.
  • Comparing growth and survival of Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas-fir, Noble fir and European silver fir seedlings planted under a uniform shelterwood of Sitka spruce.


Garry Kerr and Victoria Stokes


Hale, S.E. (2004). Managing Light to Enable Natural Regeneration in British Conifer Forests (PDF-100K) . Information Note 63. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh. pp. 6.

Kerr, G. (2008) Managing Continuous Cover Forests. Forestry Commission Operational Guidance Booklet 7. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.