Managing the pattern of forest harvest: lessons from wildfire
- Cite this article as:
- Craig Delong, S. & Tanner, D. Biodivers Conserv (1996) 5: 1191. doi:10.1007/BF00051571
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Managing forests for sustainable use requires that both the biological diversity of the forests and a viable forest industry be maintained. A current approach towards maintaining biological diversity is to pattern forest management practices after those of natural disturbance events. This paradigm hypothesizes that ecological processes will be maintained best where active management approximates natural disturbance events. The forest management model now used in most sub-boreal and boreal forests calls for regularly dispersed clearcuts no greater than 60–100 ha in size. However, the spatial characteristics of the landscape produced by this model are distinctly different from the historic pattern generated by wildfire, which was heretofore the dominant stand-replacing process in these forests. Wildfire creates a more complex landscape spatial pattern with greater range in patch size and more irregular disturbance boundaries. Individual wildfires are often over 500 ha but leave patches of unburned forest within them. The combination of these attributes is not present in recent clearcuts. Allowing a proportion of larger (i.e.>500ha) harvest units may provide distinct economic advantages that could outweight the opportunity costs of leaving some patches of forest behind. For the forest type examined, further evaluation of modelling forest harvest patterns more closely after the patterns created by wildfire is required as it may achieve a good balance and strike a suitable compromise between certain ecological and economic objectives of sustainable development.