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What is close-to-nature silviculture in a changing world?


Silviculture is a means to meet objectives ranging from timber production to wildlife habitat to naturalness. A common global trend in forestry is development of new silvicultural approaches as alternatives to plantation forestry that bear names that include the words 'nature', 'ecological' or some other positive expression regarding their intent or effects. Some approaches are attempting to emulate natural processes and others to minimize disturbance effects in an attempt to be more natural. In any case, the effects of climate changes, non-native plants, insects, pathogens and animals, and other anthropogenic effects are creating novel forest ecosystems where the silviculture of the past may not be appropriate. It should be recognized that forestry has always attempted to manage stands to meet objectives in ways that would not be similarly met without management. Rather than acquiescing to pressures to follow a nature-based model based on the past, we need to recognize that our forest ecosystems are changing and the rate of change may accelerate in the future. Natural processes and stand structures are important information about natural systems, but not necessarily for the management of these changing systems. Management of these novel ecosystems to meet societal needs will have to be novel. Rather than striving to be close to a nature that is under constant change, silviculture should strive to be better than nature. 'Close-to-nature' is flawed in both its intent to emulate nature and as a means to meet shifting ecological conditions and societal needs.

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