Sustainability of the Selection System in Northern Hardwood Forests
The selection silvicultural system is widely recommended for sustainable management of North American cool-temperate tolerant hardwood forests, yet concerns about high-grading, excessive removals, and adequate regeneration persist. We used field measurement of 96 recently harvested stands in the Great Lakes Region of the United States, under corporate, nonindustrial private, and state ownership, to appraise the observance of accepted standards. Current overstory and stumps from harvest were used to estimate pre- and postharvest stand composition, structure, and stocking. Preharvest condition was fully or overstocked in all stands irrespective of ownership. Neither pre- nor postharvest classification of stocking by size class showed statistical differences among landowners, although in absolute terms the greatest removals were on state forests and the least on corporate lands. However, only 23% of harvests overall conformed to accepted standards. Potential consequences in the 41% of stands cut heavily include diminished future yield due to low stocking, and the 36% of stands cut lightly may have compromised regeneration through insufficient disturbance. Hypotheses about landowner differences were not supported, suggesting that many are either unaware of standard practices or choose alternatives; the consequence is possible diminished long-term sustainability in the tolerant hardwood type.
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