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Ecological Management

Forestry Salvage OperationHistorically, public forested lands in Alberta were managed on a sustained yield basis, with greater emphasis on timber use and values. The term sustained yield was defined as "management of forested land for continuous production with the aim of achieving a balance between net tree growth and harvest". Sustained yield management also means that coniferous, deciduous and mixedwood forest would be maintained in about the same proportion as they now exist in perpetuity.

The idea of sustained yield management has shifted toward the broader approach called ecological management. Ecological management recognizes that Alberta's forests were created by disturbance regimes and that a balance of natural and human disturbances will be required to maintain forest biodiversity in the future. Using an ecological management approach, Albertans must plan their activities on forest lands so they do not interfere with the ecosystem's ability to perpetuate itself.

Ecological management is an evolving approach that focuses on ecological processes and ecosystem structures and functions, while sustaining the types of benefits that people derive from the forest. This approach acknowledges the importance of all species and the processes that support them in the soil, water and air. It recognizes that ecosystems occur across the landscape, and the interconnections between forest ecosystems, the economy and society. Ecological management is based on the following concepts: maintaining the forest landbase, operating within the range of natural variability, using an adaptive management approach, changes in practices, and better forest planning.

The move to ecological management is a continuous process. Human activities (like timber harvesting) are sometimes carried out in such a way that their effects resemble those of natural processes. Today, cutblocks often have irregular sizes and shapes, and follow certain features of the landscape. Forest industry companies often do studies of watersheds, wildlife habitats, and the ecological effects of timber harvesting, to name a few. Forest management will continue to move toward ecological management in the future. Forest management has to build on the knowledge we gain from forest ecosystems, adapting to new information. Ecological management will be a guide for us to help ensure that forests will continue to exist for the future.

Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.




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