Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
30 Jun 2004
30 Jun 2004

Continuous cover forestry: possible implications for surface water acidification in the UK uplands

B. Reynolds

Abstract. The effects of widespread conifer afforestation on the acidity of lakes and streams in the acid sensitive uplands of the UK has been researched extensively and has contributed to the development and implementation of national forest management guidelines (e.g. Forest and Water Guidelines; Forestry Commission, 1993). However, a recent policy document (Woodlands for Wales; National Assembly for Wales, 2000) has proposed a major shift in the management of 50% of the Forestry Commission estate in Wales from the current system of patch clearfelling to Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF). This scale of change is without precedent in the UK; no studies in the UK forest environment have examined the likely environmental impacts of CCF. However, the wealth of environmental data from studies of UK forests managed by patch clearfelling enables an assessment of the impact of a change to CCF on three issues of particular relevance to surface water acidification in the uplands; forest harvesting, soil base cation depletion and atmospheric pollutant deposition. Whilst there is uncertainty as to how even-aged stands will be transformed to CCF in the UK, guiding principles for CCF on acidic and acid sensitive sites should focus on those aspects of management which minimise nitrate leaching, encourage base cation retention within the soil-plant system and enhance base cation inputs from external (atmospheric) and internal sources (weathering). CCF may provide opportunities to achieve this by reducing the scale of clearfelling, increasing species diversity, changing the structure of plantation forests and maintaining uninterrupted woodland cover.

Keywords: acidification, forestry, continuous cover forestry, clearfelling