Jan 23 What is Silviculture?
The Word package on my computer annoyingly underlines ‘silviculture’ as if it doesn’t recognise it as English! But really there is nothing mysterious about the term. The word is a label for all the activities and actions that make up the caring for, cultivation and growing of trees, woods and forests. It is the forestry equivalent of agriculture. The latter derives from the Latin for ‘field’ and the silvi bit of silviculture is from the Latin for wood. Think of Britain’s most famous forestry treatise, John Evelyn’s Silva first published in 1662, or the word ‘sylvan’ meaning wood-like or consisting of woodlands.
A farmer in pursuing agriculture sows, plants, fertilises, and harvests his crops or treats and tends his livestock. A forester in pursuing silviculture selects, plants, tends, prunes, thins, fells and regenerates his trees and woodlands including coppicing and pollarding. All of us who care for woodlands are carrying out silviculture and those who specialise in this work may call themselves ‘silviculturists’!
But there is one expression where the word is used more technically: silvicultural system. This describes the way a woodland or forest stand is cultivated and regenerated. There are four main silvicultural systems: clearfelling and replanting, coppicing (which would include the idea of pollarding), continuous cover systems ranging from shelterwood where mature trees stand over young ones to selection systems where trees of all sizes and ages are continuously present, and agroforestry such as the old system of wood pasture. These different systems are illustrated on pages 17 to 19 of Badgers, Beeches and Blisters – Getting started in you own wood Patula Books, Basingstoke. 2006.