Reconstructing Scotland’s pine forests
Adams, Thomas P.
The Caledonian pinewoods are a habitat of crucial environmental and cultural importance, and the sole home of many rare species. However, they have seen steady decline in recent centuries, through the establishment of hunting estates and forestry plantations. A recent trend in management is the attempted transformation of existing plantations (dense communities with a regular spatial structure and low variance in size and age) towards a state mimicking the perceived natural condition, which has a lower density, irregular spatial pattern, high variance in size and age. This presents a problem for traditional forestry practices, which were conceived primarily with “even-aged” plantation populations in mind. The shift towards management of an uneven-aged structure requires a more in-depth consideration of individual trees’ lifecycles and their effect upon long-term population dynamics. In recent years, great advances in computational and mathematical models for spatially interacting populations have been made. However, certain complications have prevented them from being utilised to their full potential for the purposes of forest management. Forest communities are not only spatially structured; the size of each tree plays a role in its ability to acquire resources for growth and survival. Existing models of population dynamics are discussed, and their extension to incorporate both size- and spatially- structured interactions is presented. The key aspects of populations’ structural development are studied. Data from both plantation and semi-natural Scots Pine stands in Scotland allow parameterisation of a stochastic individual-based model, which in turn provides insights into the behaviour of real populations, and the importance of spatial effects and heterogeneity in individuals. A partial differential equation (moment) approximation to the stochastic model is presented. While this is analytically intractable, numerical integration and heuristic analysis of the equations enable clearer identification of the drivers of population structure. Many results are concordant with existing models of both qualitative forest stand development and theoretical dynamics of spatially-structured populations, while others are specific to joint size-space structure. This deeper understanding of the population dynamics allows robust recommendations for diverse uneven-aged stand management objectives to be made. Approaches to accelerating the transformation of plantation stands towards a “natural” state (using two key operations: thinning – removal of trees, and planting) are investigated. Finally, approaches to so-called “continuous cover forestry” – the practice of maintaining a quasi-natural state while also obtaining economic value from a forest – are also considered. In both cases, the model’s simplicity enables clearer conclusions than would be possible using other approaches.