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Forestry Processes
A coppiced wood forest.
is a sustainable even-aged silviculture method originating in Europe used for regenerating non-coniferous hardwood trees by cutting the tree at the stump and producing shoots. The word coppice derives from the French word "couper," meaning to cut.[1]

There is a distinct difference between coppicing and other even-aged systems such as clearcutting, seed tree, and shelterwood. Contrary to high forest systems that rely upon seed for regeneration, coppicing relies on vegetative reproduction, making it is a low forest system.[2] Coppicing is also one of the oldest forms of forestry management practices still in existence.


[edit] History

Coppicing is an ancient craft dating as far back as 3000 B.C.[3] During the Neolithic period, coppicing was practiced to make track ways over wet ground; the Romans also coppiced large areas of forest to fuel the production of iron.

By the Middle Ages, coppicing had become a common form of woodland management in the U.K.[4] Over time, coppicing went gradually from having a short rotation cycle of six years to having longer rotations. The shorter the cutting cycle, the smaller the wood; the longer the rotation cycle, the larger the wood. The coppicing of wood flourished in the mid part of the 1800s and coppicing became a predominant rural industry. Coppiced wood was used for building, fencing, and heating purposes.[5] Wood coppiced over a longer period of time yielded sizeable lumber used in ship planking, house building, and for firewood, furniture, and baskets.[6] Coppiced timber was also used to produce wicker and wattle hurdles, a type of fencing panel used to contain livestock.[7] The use of coppicing eventually declined and by 1965, only 74,132 acres (30,000 ha) of coppiced woodland remained in the U.K.[8] Coppicing has been making a recent comeback as wildlife trusts are reintroducing the practice into woodland areas.

[edit] Process

Hornbeam trees are coppiced for firewod.
Coppicing is used for a range of hardwood tree species such as hazel, maple, ash, alder, oak, elm, beech, and hornbeam.[9] When a hardwood tree is cut at the stump, it has the ability to regenerate naturally by producing shoots. The rate of growth of the stump—called a stool—and the shoots varies according to the species and age of the tree and time of year the tree gets harvested.

Coppiced trees and the natural vegetation of shoots they produce are called underwood. A coppice that produces a thriving underwood of multiple shoots is called a simple coppice. Over time, the shoots grow and eventually get harvested as rods, poles, or logs, depending on their size, and the process is then repeated.[10] The amount of time the shoots are left to grow is called a rotation cycle. A well-stocked coppice stand takes on average 15 to 20 years to produce.[11]

Coppicing can also be carried out in compartments or coups. Traditionally, this process involved subdividing a woodland area into different compartments that were then cut according to different rotation cycles. Each compartment contained a thriving underwood that would be coppiced in addition to standards of timber trees. This method was known as a coppice with standards, which entailed seed origin of hardwoods interspersed in a stand and grown over regular rotations with coppice crops produced in between.[12]

Another technique used in conjunction with coppicing is pollarding. Pollarding began in forests used for grazing stock and involved cutting the trunk 6.6 to 16.4 feet (2 to 5 m) above ground level so regenerating shoots were above the reach of animals.[13] Eventually, the tree would sprout a new head that would grow over time into usable timber.[14]

[edit] Pros and Cons

One of the drawbacks of coppicing is that it is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process. In comparison to other forest management methods, it is no longer considered an economical practice.

However, coppicing does have benefits that go a long way to support biodiversity. For one, it is a highly sustainable system producing ample flora and fauna for wildlife and plant species to thrive in. Since it involves cutting on a rotational cycle, it actually creates the opening on new glades in woodland areas. As one glade grows and closes over, another is created. What this means is that areas of high light intensity are created where non-dominant plants are able to grow. Another unique advantage of the system is that it actually increases the longevity of trees. Today, the main goals of coppicing operations are biodiversity and conservation.[15]

[edit] References

  1. Coppicing. Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust. 2008-11-21.
  2. Even-aged Silvicultural Systems. Forestry, Government of BC. 2008-11-21.
  3. What is Silviculture? Shoal Net. 2008-11-21.
  4. Coppicing. Woodland. 2008-11-21.
  5. Shelters from Saplings. Nova Forest Alliance. 2008-11-21.
  6. Coppicing. Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust. 2008-11-21.
  7. What is Silviculture? Shoal Net. 2008-11-21.
  8. Coppicing. Woodland. 2008-11-21.
  9. Coppicing. Woodland. 2008-11-21.
  10. Coppicing. Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust. 2008-11-21.
  11. Shelters from Saplings. Nova Forest Alliance. 2008-11-21.
  12. Even-aged Silvicultural Systems. Forestry, Government of BC. 2008-11-21.
  13. Coppicing. Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust. 2008-11-21.
  14. What is Silviculture? Shoal Net. 2008-11-21.
  15. Coppicing. Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust. 2008-11-21.