Forest Restoration Using Variable Density Thinning: Lessons from Douglas-Fir Stands in Western Oregon
Brian J. Palik
A large research effort was initiated in the 1990s in western United States and Canada to investigate how the development of old-growth structures can be accelerated in young even-aged stands that regenerated following clearcut harvests, while also providing income and ecosystem services. Large-scale experiments were established to compare effects of thinning arrangements (e.g., spatial variability) and residual densities (including leave islands and gaps of various sizes). Treatment effects were context dependent, varying with initial conditions and spatial and temporal scales of measurement. The general trends were highly predictable, but most responses were spatially variable. Thus, accounting for initial conditions at neighborhood scales appears to be critical for efficient restoration. Different components of stand structure and composition responded uniquely to restoration thinnings. Achieving a wide range of structures and composition therefore requires the full suite of silvicultural treatments, from leave islands to variable density thinnings and creation of large gaps. Trade-offs among ecosystem services occurred as result of these contrasting responses, suggesting that foresters set priorities where and when different vegetation structures are most desirable within a stand or landscape. Finally, the results suggested that foresters should develop restoration approaches that include multiple treatments.
Puettmann, Klaus J.; Ares, Adrian; Burton, Julia I.; and Dodson, Erich Kyle, "Forest Restoration Using Variable Density Thinning: Lessons from Douglas-Fir Stands in Western Oregon" (2016). Wildland Resources Faculty Publications. Paper 2452.