Implementing continuous cover forestry in planted forests: experience with Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in the British Isles.
Planted forests of Sitka spruce, a non-native species from north-west America, are the major forest type in Great Britain and Ireland. Standard management involves even-aged stands, rotations of 40-50 years and a patch clear-felling system with artificial regeneration. However, forest policies support managing these forests for multifunctional objectives with increased diversity of species composition and stand structure. Continuous cover forestry (CCF) is an alternative silvicultural approach used to provide such diversity, but the amount of CCF forest is under 10% of the forest area, and less in Sitka spruce forests; This paper reviews research carried out in the last two decades to support the implementation of CCF in Sitka spruce planted forests; Stand structures and microclimate favouring natural regeneration are understood. Harvesting systems have been adapted for use in CCF stands, a single-tree growth model has been calibrated, comparative costs and revenues have been determined, and operational trials established. The interaction between thinning and wind stability in irregular stands is problematic, together with the lack of suitable species for growing in mixture with Sitka spruce; Introduction of an alternative silvicultural approach may take decades and must overcome technical challenges and cultural resistance.