Why continuous cover has wealth of benefits for all
I have written previously about the concept of continuous cover forestry (CCF), also called close-to-nature forest management, with pointers on how to convert a conventional plantation to a CCF system over time. This week I will look at some advantages of close-to-nature forest management.
Before foresters and owners alike dismiss CCF as a viable, even desirable, option, perhaps they would do well to consider the long-term global trend towards the more sustainable stewardship of all our resources.
Certification of sustainable forest management is in all likelihood here to stay. As we have seen, clearfelling is now illegal in some European countries; and across Europe the size of clearfelling coupes allowed has been decreasing.
At a theoretical 25ha, our maximum felling coupe size is one of the largest allowed in any European state -- itself rather bizarre given our small total forest cover, and small average forest size. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) standards for Ireland incorporate provisions to limit the extent of clearfell as a proportion of the total woodland area, and to ensure that even-aged woodlands are restructured for a greater diversity of ages and habitats.
In addition, society is les comfortable with the scars on the landscape caused by clearfelling -- whatever about the disturbance to wildlife, even the most diehard proponents of the system are unlikely to argue that a recently clearfelled site is a tourist attraction.
But this is to view CCF as an alternative in a negative light, when in fact it has many advantages.
To look first at what some would see as a disadvantage - the level of management input typical in well established CCF sites in Europe.
Even though in many cases the forests are huge in comparison to our own, they are often sub-divided into small management units and their managers have an intimate knowledge of the growing stock, sometimes right down to individual tree level.