The silviculture of restoration: a historical perspective with contemporary application
In the southern United States, the turn of the 20th century saw the high-grading of virgin pine stands that left millions of acres of forestland in desperate condition. Some of these southern pine stands now support thriving forests whose patterns and processes resemble those extant before they were cut a century ago, but others do not. The success of this recovery in the southern pinery was based upon three primary elements. First, the silvics of the species had
something to do with the success of their restoration; some of the southern pines have inherent ecological attributes that lend themselves to restoration, and others do not. Second,
the plasticity of high-graded stands under the artful hand of the silviculturists of the day was instrumental in the recovery, partly because of the trees, and partly because of the silviculturists. Finally, major advances in silvicultural science provided astounding successes, and sometimes profound malpractice, in enabling or inhibiting the recovery. A qualitative and quantitative silvicultural review of that history can help modern silviculturists achieve goals of integrated restoration for multi-resource benefits on public and private lands, both regionally and nationally. Key elements for contemporary silviculturists to consider are: 1) that restoration of process drives restoration of structure; 2) that successful restoration demands that a silviculturist balance the cognitive dissonance between economics and ecology; 3) that some tools that traditionally have been associated with intensive forestry for fiber production can help restoration prescriptions succeed at functionally meaningful ecological scale; 4) that a diversity of silvicultural practices among stands across a landscape is more robust than a uniformity of practice; and 5) that restoration will be easier in some forest types than in others regardless of the silviculturist’s efforts.