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Tour of Brittany 2003

by Pro Silva Ireland and SelectFor

19th – 22nd May 2003

 The tour was organised by Robert Tottenham,

Marie-Christine Flechard, Phil Morgan and Huw  Denman.

We are most grateful to them, and to our hosts in Brittany for whom we include here translations of the overview of the tour.

Reports were written by Phil Morgan, Morgan Roche, John Casey, Huw Denman and Anthony Keane  and  edited by Elizabeth Tottenham

Photographs by Donal O’Hare, Phil Morgan, Elizabeth Tottenham and Morgan Roche (see galleries)

Pro Silva members on the tour were John Casey, Hal Chavasse, Marie-Christine Flechard, Anthony Keane, Donal O’Hare, Morgan Roche,  Elizabeth Tottenham, Richard Tottenham, Robert Tottenham,  and from SelectFor, Huw Denman and Phil Morgan.

 

Tour of Brittany

by Pro Silva Ireland and SelectFor

An overview by Philippe Morgan

ProSilva Ireland, with the addition of the two Welsh members of SelectFor, spent four days in May 2003 touring Brittany to see how Sitka growing and continuous cover on the Atlantic rim of continental Europe compares with that in Ireland and Wales.

From a base in Carhaix-Plouguer we visited forests in all quarters of Brittany,  meeting with Breton foresters and woodland owners to see how they manage their woodlands.

The scene was admirably set by the Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière (CRPF) and the Office National des Forêts (ONF) during our first two days in the west of Brittany.   The Finistère is the westernmost tip of Brittany and the furthest land stretching out into the Atlantic.   Here the biological factors that determine tree growth were clearly and very vividly demonstrated by moderate rainfall (higher than average for France), soil types, native species, established exotics (Spanish chestnut), use of conifers, southern provenances, high yield classes.

Geography and culture have historically isolated Brittany and still have left their mark.   In spite of modern infrastructure development, access to markets is poor;  there is little timber industry investment;  average tree cover is below the national average;  original ownership is often retained, with change in land use as farmers diversify in the face of intensification and the reduced demand for land.   We saw high pruning of Sitka, not as a response to market demand but as a culturally ingrained need to tend their crops.   The fear is that this may lead to frustration if the market for the product does not materialise.   The support systems and planned economy, set up by the CRPF and mirrored by the ONF,  are inflexible and lack connectivity of objectives.   Their managers, however, are looking for solutions and are cautiously considering irregular forestry options.   The CRPF is wary to embark on a course without a proven track record, but the ONF is increasingly willing to accept irregularity in order to deliver Public benefit.  It is now seeking greater efficiency through cost effective irregular forestry systems.

The second half of the visit, over the next two days, was in striking contrast to the first where a measured and considered approach had burdened the decision-making process and had restricted management.   Here we were now faced with a different type of private woodland owner, often retired industrialists and professional types who wished to maintain contact with the land and invest in forests.   These were entrepreneurs and risk takers, looking for market opportunity, always wanting to improve capital value and to provide for the next generation.   The two private forestry consultants we met also had a different approach,  looking at niche markets,  optimising breakouts and reducing overall costs.

We were fortunate to see four different forests at different stages of the transformation process  –  so we were able to understand the different starting points and objectives as well as the differing constraints on the individual sites.   There were three forests that had started from low value failed plantations, either because of recent poor management, or due to clearfelling to provide for death duties in the 1940s;  or due to site impoverishment and to excessive post clearfelling costs. One example was of an overstocked mature woodland undergoing transformation through reduction of standing volume, where a forest capital was being maintained and improved to provide sustainable income.

In all these cases a pragmatic approach to management, using natural systems, was used to transform to forests that yield a wide range of high value products and benefits.   There was often an acceptance that transformation periods are long and that further investment is required to provide infrastructure for productive forestry.   There was always the strong belief in that their forests were adaptable and could change with fluctuations in the market;  they were not working against nature, but making use of natural systems with a wide range of options at their disposal.

We came away enthused by our experience and overwhelmed by the generosity of our hosts who had gone to great lengths to arrange visits and entertain us, and to ensure that we made contact with official bodies, organisations and individuals with an interest in continuous cover.   There was a distinct feeling that we are facing the same challenges and that we were sharing our ideas and making strong parallels,  reinforced by our Celtic links.   There was real communication –  speaking Breton and Welsh and with the help of our two translators sharing the translation in French and English –  between visitors and hosts.

(Philippe Morgan BSc. (For) FICFor is a consultant with SelectFor, experts in continuous cover forestry)

Voyage d’étude ProSilva Irlande et SelectFor en Bretagne

ProSilva Irlande accompagné de deux membres Gallois de SelectFor ont passé quatre jours en Bretagne en mai 2003 pour un voyage d’étude. Le but était de mieux comprendre et de comparer la sylviculture du Sitka et la sylviculture proche de la nature, de cette région de France avec l’Irlande et le Pays de Gales, tous orientés vers la façade atlantique. Basés à Carhaix-Plouguer nous avons visité des forêts sur une large superficie de la Bretagne. Nous avons rencontré des forestiers et des propriétaires afin d’analyser leur mode de gestion du patrimoine.

De grands horizons et des perspectives nouvelles nous ont été admirablement présentées par le Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière (CRPF) et l’Office National des Forêts (ONF) pendant nos deux premiers jours à l’ouest de la Bretagne. Le Finistère est la pointe la plus à l’ouest de la région, véritable entrave dans l’Atlantique, nommé « la fin de la Terre » par ses habitants. Ici les facteurs biologiques favorables à la croissance des arbres ont été très clairement démontrés. Ils se mesurent par : les précipitations modérées (plus hautes que la moyenne générale de la France), les différents types de sol, les essences indigènes, les essences exotiques établies (châtaignier), l’utilisation des conifères en provenances du sud de la cote ouest d’Amérique du nord, et les classes de productivité élevées. La géographie et la culture ont historiquement isolé la Bretagne et laissent aujourd’hui encore leurs marques. En dépit du développement moderne des infrastructures, l’accès aux marchés est toujours difficile. Nous avons remarqué peu d’investissement dans l’industrie du bois de construction, et la couverture moyenne d’arbre est au-dessous de la moyenne nationale. Les droits de terrains sont plus souvent retenus par les agriculteurs, qui doivent faire face à la diversification résultant du phénomène de l’intensification de l’agriculture. Nous avons vu des Sitka bien élagués, qui ne répondent pas aux demandes économiques, mais sont présents pour les besoins de l’entretien de la récolte. L’agriculteur risque de ne pas rentabiliser ce type de produits à haute valeur ajoutée au sein des marchés actuels. Les systèmes de soutien et l’installation prévus pour les développements économique par le CRPF et l’ONF manquent de flexibilité et de connectivité d’objectifs. Leurs gestionnaires cependant recherchent des solutions à apporter et considèrent des options de sylviculture irrégulières en gardant certaines précautions. Le CRPF reste prudent avant de s’engager dans un secteur sans expérience professionnelle. En revanche, l’ONF semble de plus en plus disposé à accepter l’irrégularité afin de fournir des bénéfices publics. L’ONF cherche maintenant une plus grande efficacité et rentabilité en appliquant une sylviculture  dite irrégulière.

Les deux jours suivants de la visite nous ont montré un contraste avec les précédentes observations. La première approche mesurée et considérée nous apparaissait maintenant bloquée dans des processus décisionnels qui en limitaient  sa gestion. Ici nous avons été confrontés à un type différent de propriétaire forestier privé. Ces industriels ou professionnels à la retraite souhaitent maintenir un contact avec la terre et investir dans les forêts. De part leur statut d’entrepreneur, ils savent mesurer les risques du marché et tentent de maintenir la valeur de leur capital sur du long terme. Les deux experts forestiers ProSilva rencontrés sur place ont eux aussi une approche différente. Ils cherchent des marchés ciblés, des perspectives nouvelles pour le débitage et la réduction des coûts globaux. Nous avons eux l’occasion de parcourir quatre autres forêts à des stages différents de la transformation. Ainsi nous avons observé les divers points de départ, les objectifs et les contraintes rencontrées sur place. Trois forêts avaient été conçues à partir de plantations échouées en raison d’une mauvaise gestion. Le rôle de l’abattage en raison des droits de succession dans les années 40 en est une des conséquence ainsi que l’appauvrissement d’emplacements combiné avec des coûts de reboisement excessifs. Un autre exemple de peuplement dense complète cette observation par une transformation et une réduction du volume sur pied, tout en maintenant et en améliorant un capital ligneux afin de fournir un certain revenu. Dans tous les cas, une approche de gestion pragmatique s’appuyant sur la sylviculture proche de la nature a été employée pour transformer ses forêts qui génèrent un éventail de produits et de prestations. Nous savons que les périodes de transformations sont souvent longues et que davantage d’investissement sont nécessaires. Il faut fournir une solide infrastructure pour obtenir une sylviculture productive. Lors de notre voyage les forestiers bretons nous ont prouvé leur capacité d’adaptation face aux marchés. Ils ne travaillaient pas contre la nature mais se servaient des systèmes naturels qui leurs présentaient un large éventail d’options.

Nous sommes revenus enthousiasmés par notre expérience et ravis par la générosité de nos hôtes. Leurs efforts nous ont permis de faire ces visites, de rencontrer tous les organismes officiels et tout type de personnes avec un intérêt pour la forêt permanente. Nous gardons le sentiment que nous relevions les mêmes défis et que nous partagions les mêmes idées renforcées par nos liens celtiques. Nous pensons avoir eu une bonne communication grâce à nos origines communes, nous avons parlé Breton et Gallois. Nos deux traducteurs, qui se sont partagés la traduction français/anglais, nous ont aussi facilité les échanges entre les visiteurs et nos hôtes.

(Philippe Morgan BSc. (For) FICFor est un conseiller avec SelectFor, experts en sylviculture proche de la nature.)

Ur veaj studi e Breiz gant ProSilva Ireland ha SelectFor

Dileuridi ProSilva Ireland (asamblez gant daou ezel euz SelectFor euz Bro Gembre) noa paseed pevar devez e miz mê 2003 oh ober tro Breiz. Ar pal oa da veled penaoz e kenverie ar foresterez e kosteziou Atlantel douar-braz an Europ gant foresterez an Iverzon ha Bro Gembre (dreist-oll hini ar gwez Sitka). Lojed oamp e Karaëz euz lec’h omp eed da veladenni koajeier e peb korn euz ar vro. Greed e maomp anaoudegez gant koadourien ha perc’henned koajeier evid gweled penaoz vijent mered gante.

An daou zevez kenta e kuz-heol Breiz oamp rekoured mad gant ar Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière (CRPF) hag an Office National des Forêts (ONF). Penn-ar-bed eo penn pella ar vro hag lammad ra an douar mêz e kreiz ar mor don. Aman vije gweled splann penaoz an elvennou beooniel harze kresk ar gwez. Dre o hano : glao habask (ueloc’h eged etread ar Frans), seurtou pri, plant ar vro, plant euz a lec’h all (gwez kesten), gwez pin euz ar c’hreistez, ha seurtou gwez gant un ampletusted uel. An douaroniez hag ar sevenadur neuz troc’hed Breiz dre red an istor ha gweled vez c’hwaz ar roudou. En desped da gresk ar c’hêriou hag an henchou nevez n’eo ked êz kas produ d’ar marc’hajou. Ne meump ked gweled kalz arc’hant lakadenned e konvers ar c’hoad, hag ar golo gwez a chom izelloc’h eged etread ar Frans. An douar vez aliez etre daouarn peizanted e vez dao deze chanch o mod evid klask dond benn euz an dizunvani deud dre builhad al labour-douar hag an neubeutaad er goulenn evid douar. Gweled moamp gwez Sitka diskoultred mat, nompaz dre boez ar c’honvers nemed evid delc’hel o eost kempenn. Lec’h zo da gaoud aoun ne vo ked posubl d’ar peizant ober ur gonid gant ur seurt produ er marc’hajou a zo breman. Ar sistemou skoazella hag ar ragtresadennou a zo e sonj ar CRPF hag an ONF n’int ked gweon a walc’h ha mankoud reont un eread en o falou. Koulskoude, o mererien zo o klask dizalc’hwezou hag a zo, gant evez, e sonj digemer dilennou foresterez direiz. Ar CRPF zo goerr a raog kroga gant un hent a n’eo ked anavezed gante lec’h eo prestoc’h-prest an ONF da zigemer an direisted evid galloud tizoud ur gonid publik ha breman e klask un efedusted brasoc’h dre sistemou foresterez direiz a vo goniduz.

Ur c’hemm braz oa etre an daou zevez war lerc’h hag ar pez a oa bed gweled an daou zevez kenta. Lec’h da genta oa ur mod d’ober pozed a selle piz euz an traou med a seblante harz ar mera dre ur framm disida ponne, aman enem gavemp dirag perc’henned koad euz ur oenn dishenvel, aliez a walc’h industrialisted war o leve pe tud a vicher a noa c’hwant da zelc’hel o daremprejou gant and douar ha da lakadenni er c’hoajeier. Dre ma oa ar reman entrepreneurien ha tud a riskl ar re o gwella evid delc’hel talvoudegez o c’hapital dre hir amzer. An daou guzulier foresterez oa enem gaved war an dachenn gant ProSilva neunt ur mod d’ober dishenvel. Klask reont ur marc’had resiz, modou nevez da zispenti o froduou ha koaza o frejou. Bed meump bed un digarez da veled pevar goad e liveou dishenvel en o c’hresk. Er mod-se oa moien deomp da gompren ar poenchou kregi dishenvel hag ar palou, heb ankouaad ar c’hontragnou dishenvel a zo da beb tachenn. Tri goad a oa bed komansed evel plantadegou c’hwited gant un dalvoudegez izel, pe dre vera fall, pe dre ziskaradegou  da renka ar susit er bloaveziou 1940, pe dre baourraad an dachenn hag un disklabeza a neuz kousted re gêr.Ur skwerr euz ur c’hemm evid delc’hel ha gwellaad kapital ar foresterez evid rei ur honidigez oa koaza al loened en ur c’hoad koz gant re loened o peuri ennan. Beb lec’h ur mod d’ober pragmatik da vera a ree vad euz sistemou naturel oa implijed da gemm ar c’hoajeier da rei ur skeuliad ledan euz produou ha gonid uel. Komprened vez eo hir an amzer da droi implij ur c’hoad ha lakadennou pelloc’h vez ezomm da rei ur frammadur solud evid ar foresterez ampletuz. Dalc’hmad oa stard an dud en o c’hred oa moien da adapti o c’hoajeier hag e chanchfent gant chanchamanchou ar marc’hajou. Merourien ar c’hoajeier labouront ked eneb ar natur nemed enur ober implij euz sistemou naturel a roe deze un dibab modou d’ober.

Ur Deud omp en dro laouen euz hon gweladenni e Breiz ha bamed gant largentez hon ostizien a noant greed o seiz gwella da zigemer ahanomp ha da sikour ahanomp evel ma gallfemp dond en darempred gant an ensavaduriou ofisiel, renkaduriou ha re a oa interesed e koajeier paduz. En hon touez oa santimant krenv oamp dirag ar memez difi hag enur ranna hon ideou krenveed gant hon ereadennou keltieg. Dre sikour hon orin kumun e kredomp e oa bed ur gwir zaremped lec’h ma oa kozeed en brezoneg hag en kembreeg ha dre sikour hon daou droier, a zispartie an troi etre galleg ha saozneg, oa êseed an eskemmou etre ar gweladennourien hag an ostizien.

Ur (Philippe Morgan BSc. (For) FICFor zo kuzulier gant SelectFor, ispisialourien gant ar foresterez tost d’an natur.)

Monday 19th May 2003

First day of Tour of Brittany by Pro Silva Ireland and SelectFor

By Morgan Roche

Forêt de Laz, Saint Goazec

CRPF (Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière) de Bretagne

We began by introducing ourselves to Alain Coic, Chambre d’Agriculture Finistère, our host,  and to Louis Jouaillec, Robert Henry, Roger Tom, private woodland owners and to Guy Le Vallegant, a nurseryman. We were also joined by Maurice Nicholas, Cyrille Cormier and Xavier Groenie from the CRPF who lead most of the discussions during the day.

Our first stop was in a former coppiced area that had been planted up with mixed conifer.  Such changes in land use were common in Brittany.  This forty year old stand was made up of 40% Sitka Spruce, 20% Douglas fir along with some Thuja plicata and Pinus strobus. Abies grandis had also been planted, but had suffered due to drought. The conclusion was that Brittany was too dry for Abies grandis, which was attacked by honey fungus after drought periods.

Our hosts explained that the mixture had been imposed here, but that as long as the species suited there were advantages. Broadleaves, such as oak, beech and Spanish chestnut were in the canopy, these having been favoured, particularly after the storm of 1987. This storm had damaged 35% of forest in Brittany and 3 million m3 of timber was harvested as a direct result of this storm.

Deer Management

A cull system is enforced, but the number of roe deer to be culled is set with little input from the owner. Over a 150 ha area 7 roe deer are currently culled. It was suggested that 30 roe deer in this area would be the maximum acceptable number for practising Pro Silva forestry.

Marketing

Sitka Spruce is almost exclusively used for pallet construction in Brittany and the pulp market is non existent at present, resulting in delays in first thinning. Larger dimension material is sold as pallet timber.

Second stop – a stand marked for standing sale by auction. The reason for clear felling a forty year old stand of Sitka spruce was that the risk of damage due to storms and honey fungus was becoming too great, and that the market preferred timber with a volume no greater than 1.5m2.

Our third stop brought us to a further stand of Sitka spruce which had been badly damaged in the storm of 1987. Three years later the stand was restocked with Douglas fir. Further species (Sitka spruce, Pinus strobus, oak) have arrived through natural regeneration and the management plan prescribes favouring the Douglas fir and oak. The first thinning is due in three years and will be systematic. All such thinning has been carried out by harvesters since the late 1990s.

In our hosts’ experience natural regeneration was always more expensive to tend and thin. This is most probably due to their tendency to regenerate relatively large coupes. Previously forested sites had been easier to naturally regenerate naturally than afforestation sites.

Fourth stop

All water catchment areas are within stands of Sitka Spruce in Brittany! This stand was also damaged through the storm of 1987 and although a neighbouring stand regenerated well, this stand had to be planted up in grids of 3m x 3m and 6m x 6m. The species was mainly made up of Sitka spruce and Thuja. This site needed to be beaten up in 2001.

Fifth stop was in a stand of mainly Lawson cypress, a species with timber of very good qualities but no established market due to the small volumes of timber available.  It attracts only the same price as normal construction timber, despite its far superior qualities.  This is a reflection on the lack of experience within the market with Lawson cypress, as well as Douglas fir.

Stop six was another stand blown by the storm of 1987. Douglas fir had been replaced by planting Sitka spruce, but the Douglas fir (with some birch) had regenerated naturally. We learnt that in a pure stand of fir the costs of the first intervention are not covered, but that this is achieved if Douglas fir are in mixture with Sitka spruce. This is again a reflection on the difficulties of marketing a relatively unknown species.

Seventh Stop

The risks of introduced species were highlighted at our next stop where we saw Pinus strobus, which regenerates freely, but is less productive than Sitka spruce. Both species are destined for the pallet market only.

We had a wonderful picnic lunch by a pond and topped it off with a glass of calvados, produced by Robert Henri of Garsplegeant.

Arzano, Quimperlé

Afternoon of the first day of the Tour of Brittany

We began in a 70 year old stand of Lawson cypress, in which there was also areas with 30 year old Lawson cypress and natural regeneration of Lawson cypress after the damage caused by the 1987 storm. The stand received selective pruning and a negative selection thinning was practised. The timber has been motor manually felled and 80% of the total was sold standing.

The forester responsible for advising on this private property hoped that the stand would be retained as a seed stand. The owners usually regard natural regeneration as weeds of poorer quality to planted material. The CRPF foresters also made it quite clear that they felt the marketing of timber was a separate profession and fell outside of their areas of responsibility. Throughout the day the problem of honey fungus was apparent.  The feeling was that this problem increases with successive monocultures of the same species.  Tree stumps were treated with urea to reduce damage.

Despite the depressed state of the timber market, it was thought there was a niche for mobile sawmills.

Finally we saw 70 year old Lawson cypress with an impressive standing volume of 666m3 and a DBH of 10cm or more.  The management plan foresaw retaining the over storey for a further 20 years, then harvesting, and allowing an irregular forest structure to develop.

Phil Morgan thanked our hosts for showing us such a variety of stands.

(Morgan Roche was former Hon Secretary of Pro Silva Ireland and is now living in Australia)

 

Tuesday 20th May 2003

Second day of Pro Silva Ireland Tour to Brittany

By John Casey

Site 1 – Forêt domaniale de Landevennec,  le Faou

Office National des Forêts  (ONF)

The first stop consists of a Scots pine / Corsican pine regeneration stand. The management plan has been modified to produce a shelter wood system. This modification is due to the site’s high visibility and to preserve the Corsican pine, which was first introduced into Brittany on this site.

The aim of the management is to produce a 2 storey mainly Corsican pine stand, which the ONF feel has a superior form to the Scots pine, being more drawn out and with lower branching. The regeneration has produced mixed results – producing Corsican pine, Scots pine, western red cedar, birch, holly, Spanish chestnut as well as small numbers of arbutus and holm oak regeneration.

The second stop bears a greater resemblance to the original natural Brittany forest cover of oak / beech / holly and is part of the designated Protected Coastal Area. The fast growing oak is c. 100 years old, and is irregularly exploited.  Greater bio-diversity has being slow to occur due to the innate conditioning of the forest workers to remove ash, cherry, birch, etc.

The oak/ beech scrub is profitably sold standing as firewood (€5/ m3 standard). In tandem with the removal of some larger trees, this has resulted in natural regeneration being stimulated.  Hunting also provides a regular income.   A scheme similar to the Native Woodland assists thinning operations to improve forest design. State and local government, for example, meet the cost of pine regeneration removal in holly / yew stands.

Site 2- Forêt domaniale du Cranou, le Faou

Office National des Forêts (ONF).

Stop 1  consists of a oak/ beech site, originally planted c. 1789, following The French Revolution, to provide building material for the national navy. Oak trees were bent  as they grew to provide the ribs of the ships.  The first stop consists of Caucasian fir and beech, planted in 1990, after the felling of the old crop following the 1987 hurricane.

The older part of the site consists of an over-storey of oak and beech, with Caucasian fir scattered throughout.  Gaps are being made in the canopy to stimulate natural regeneration. Also, the beech/ holly/ yew under-storey is exploited as a firewood source and to provide space for natural regeneration.  The conservation of the native yew species is an important management aim, as is the retention of standing deadwood for wildlife,  such as the black woodpecker.

Within the small felling coupes, there is a period of 10- 15 years from the encouragement of regeneration to the felling of the remaining older crop (245/ m3 standing).  The next operation is the removal of briars from around the regeneration.  The regeneration is then re-spaced 3 times over the 15 years to 6- 8m spacing.  The first return from the new crop will occur in 30 years when firewood, paper, crepe paper and small flooring will be produced. Flooring will be produced between 30- 80 years of age, oak barrels for wine at 80 years.

Stop 2  is made up of an oak/ beech stand, c.150- 180 years old.   It was part felled in the 1920’s and allowed to regenerate, leading to a silver fir understorey, with substantial numbers of holly and yew.    Part of the area is already protected because it contains the mono-cellular filmy fern, Hymenophyllum tunbrigense.  To preserve the damp, shaded area for the fern, some of the silver fir will have to be retained in the short term.

Site 3 –  Private forest, Brasparts  –     M. Pierre Cras

1st Stop  –  Sitka spruce (Washington provenance), planted 1970 at  3 x 2.5m spacing, stocking 1,300 stems/ ha. One tonne per hectare of phosphate applied. First thinning (1 in 3) was carried out in 1990, 2nd thinning in 1996 and pruning to 6m height of the final trees. Pruning is justified in terms of appearance rather in terms of economic benefit. By 2003, there were 550 trees/ ha. Third thinning is to commence in 2005- 2006. The final crop in 2010- 2015 will contain 250 trees/ ha. The spruce is being grown mainly as pallet wood.

Details:-  dbh  35 cm    Plus trees  38 cm    Top ht.  22m

 Avg. vol.  0.83 m3    Total vol. 450 m3/ ha 

Yield class  25- 30

It is felt by the local foresters that the crop was thinned late.  They are proposing to thin at 7cm dbh, ht. 11m, a nearby Sitka spruce stand, planted 1989, in order to achieve the full benefit of a more open crown.  Limiting factors attached to the rotation length include pallet vol. < 1.5 but a harvesting limit of 50- 60 dbh, the increased risk of Heterobasidion annosum and the preferences of the private owner. All proposed felling areas >4 ha require an impact assessment report.

2nd Stop  –   Sitka spruce, planted 1973 at 2.5 x 2.5m spacing.    A heavy first thinning carried out in 1999 resulting in a 2003 stocking rate of 450 trees/ ha.

Details:-  dbh  35 cm   Top ht.  26 m   Avg. vol. 0.9 m3

The Sitka have quickly responded to the heavy thinning and have surpassed the adjacent in the 1st Stop site.  Discussion ensued between Robert Tottenham and the manager on the pros and cons of thinning the faster growing trees first, thus allowing good crown development on the smaller trees and eventually leading to a stage where natural regeneration would be a management option.  The manager agreed that it would be his personal preference, but again, the owner will make the final decision.

Site 4- Private forest, Berrien, Huelgoat – M. Roger Tom

This former 20 ha tillage agriculture ground contains 14 year old, yield class 30 Sitka spruce (Oregon provenance), planted at 1,300 stems/ ha.   A government planting grant of  €900- 950/ ha covered both the purchase of the land and the cost of trees, which the owner planted himself.  A first 1 in 6 thinning regime was carried out in 2002 as per government grant conditions. The plantation produced 60 m3/ ha, consisting of 50:50 pallet and pulp at €1/m3 stacked. The 2nd thinning will be carried out in 2008.

The owner is part of an owner syndicate, with 300 members. Subventions pay for lobby representation to government bodies. Insurance premia are also reduced through a group rate (€250/ year). The Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière (CRPF) of Brittany employ a forester to provide practical & technical backup as well as training. The CRPF is a nationwide govt. organisation similar in role to that of the Teagasc foresters. Subscriptions are collected locally through rates and based on forest productivity.

(John Casey, B.Ag Sc.(Forestry), is a Forestry  Adviser with Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority)

 

Wednesday 21st May 2003

3rd day of Tour of Brittany by Pro Silva Ireland  and SelectFor

By Huw Denman

Bois de Kerallan, Languidic

Bois de Kerallan is managed by forestry consultant Jean-Michel Guillier for the owners Monsieur et Madame Ducart who met us with their financial adviser M. Léon Marque on site.

Site details

Location: Languidic, Morbihan, south Brittany, approximately 35KM from the sea.

Area : 82 hectares

Elevation:  30 metres

Rainfall:  900 mm

Soils:  Sand/loam

Species:  Mainly Sitka spruce and maritime pine, also pedunculate oak, chestnut, Corsican pine, birch

Site 1

The first site we visited was a mixed 35-year-old stand of maritime pine and Sitka spruce with oak, sweet chestnut and Corsican pine also present. The woodland had only recently been acquired along with a 25 year management plan (plan simple de gestion) based on the principles of uniform high forest (futaie régulière) which is due to run out in 2009. A new management plan has been submitted in order to accommodate the wishes of the owner to opt for continuous cover forest management. The site was relatively irregular in spatial diversity and diameter range and Monsieur Guillier had opted to accentuate the irregular structure by immediately thinning to favour trees with the most desirable characteristics. In practice this had meant creating a permanent rack layout (cloisonnement) and selectively felling and removing some of the larger and more heavily branched trees. The thinning accentuated the spatial diversity of the site and allowed natural regeneration to appear and respond to the improved light conditions. There was speculation amongst the group as to whether the interesting structure was due to initial wide spacing or heavy mortality amongst the spruce at establishment. Monsieur Guillier was of the opinion that the Sitka had suffered heavy mortality at establishment and that full stocking was achieved at variable density by natural regeneration of maritime pine, chestnut and oak.

Management planning

Management plans are compulsory for any private forest over 25 ha. The CRPF (Centre Régional de la Propriété Forestière) administers and approves the plan, which covers operations for a 10 years period. It is possible to request amendments to the management objectives before the end of the 10 years period but these changes have to be justified and examined by the state body, DDAF (Directions Départementales de l’Agriculture et de la Forêt) which is the devolved representative of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Marketing

Contrary to the trend in Ireland and the UK where maximum diameters are imposed by many sawmills, Sitka in Brittany can be sold in larger sizes even though the eventual sawn and processed market uses are similar or the same. Premium prices are obtained for large size Corsican and maritime pine of good quality with the best prices offered for timber suitable for the internal plywood market.

Site 2

Site 2 was described by Monsieur Guillier as a desirable stand according to the criteria of the state forest administration; that is,  a Sitka spruce high forest dominating the site and vegetation. Traditionally stands like these were low thinned to maximise sawlog increment but Monsieur Guillier posed the question to the group as to what treatment the stand should have. There was much discussion by the group over thinning strategies and how to successfully transform the stand to irregularity. It was pointed out by one group member that a structural target should not be an objective in itself and that the main objectives of thinning and selective felling should be to concentrate increment on the best stems and to provide timber yield. Stand structure would develop as a result of frequent intervention, removing trees as value increment declines and by ignoring the need for uniform spacing.

Courrouet – Penhouet

Afternoon  of day 3 of the Tour of Brittany

During the afternoon Monsieur Guillier accompanied us to another of his managed woods where we were met by the current owner, Monsieur Bourgeois, and previous owners of 30 years, Monsieur de Terline and his wife.

Site details

Site name: Courrouët – Penhouët

Location: near Maure de Bretagne, Ille et Vilaine, south of Rennes

Area: 268 hectares in larger block of 400 hectares

Elevation: 100 metres

Slope:  Gentle, towards north

Rainfall: Nearest rain gauge at Rennes records 678mm probably more than 900 mm

PH  5

Characteristics: Liable to fire

Species: Mixed broadleaves, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, silver fir

The woodland history was explained by the previous owner, Monsieur de Terline. The forest was inherited by 2 brothers in 1968 who formed a forest syndicate. Revenue was required to pay for forest management and therefore 140 hectares was clearfelled to provide income. Loans were then required to pay for the heavy cost of restocking. Windblow in 1987 and drought in 1990 and 1992 caused the need for salvage felling operations. However, in 1994 the owner attended the Pro Silva Congress in Besançon and decided to try a new approach to management.

Sitka or Douglas Fir?

We moved off into the woodland to stop at a P-1970 stand of Sitka spruce. The owner and previous owner were both of the opinion that Sitka was not the best species for the site with low rainfall being a major limiting factor. Douglas fir provided a higher value increment than Sitka and was now the preferred conifer species. Large good quality oak were seen which were estimated to be only aged 130 years.

Natural regeneration was primarily of oak and silver fir with Douglas fir planted in areas where regeneration didn’t appear.

There was discussion as to the role of birch in mixture with Sitka spruce. It was explained that birch as a natural pioneer species was integrated into the mixture as a nurse to the spruce and had a pruning in the spruce understorey. It was also claimed that it helped reduce spruce pest numbers, especially bark beetle attacks.  Birch was marketed but didn’t attract high prices locally.

The silviculture of the forest was based on removal of trees when value increment declines with some lower value trees being retained to biological maturity as a framework within the forest to provide a degree of stability and continuity.

(Huw Denman is a consultant with SelectFor, experts in continuous cover forestry)

 

Thursday 22nd May 2003

Fourth day of the Tour of Brittany

By Anthony Keane OSB

Forêt de la Motte, Forêt de Loudéac

In the morning we were guided through woods that Guillaume Martinez helps to manage.  Helps, for  generally in France forestry ownership and management seems a complex inter-relational affair with, first,  the government imposing taxes –  beginning fonciere and ending with vat –  and, in the meantime, granting or withholding the necessary approval for forest management plans and any subsequent amendments thereto;  then the forest consultant / manager at the operational end,  trying to run things economically according to best practice;   and finally the poor forest owner who may be spotted in between  with his pruning hook, furtively trying to  tend his beloved trees, innocent of returns, but sometimes wondering whether his rapidly draining life savings will keep him in title to the end, or whether there might be another  member of his family with folly and wealth enough to take it on  –  or whether there might be another banker or industrialist,  more recently retired  and inexperienced,  to whom he might sell the lot.

Beyond the fascination of French advanced fiscal and governance systems,  the forestry operations are very interesting.  Between 1900 and 1990, coniferisation programmes, aided by government grants and quantities of biocide, have managed to establish Corsican pine, Sitka spruce and other conifers against the odds of vigorous oak regrowth and regeneration.  In our morning’s wood the Sitka spruce  do not generally thrive in this relatively dry climate on a free draining soil, but gather in damp hollows and percolating slopes. The pine are a little rough, owing perhaps to the excessive removal of hardwood regrowth and generation over the years.  They once went as pit props;  now, with an average size of  0.8m, they are sold at roadside for €35 a metre cubed, the owner and his agents controlling the marking, felling and extraction operations. Management welcomes the beginning of natural regeneration of birch, beech, oak and Spanish chestnut under the pine, for the current target is a regenerated broadleaf wood.  Huw suggests some positive planting to speed the process and provide seed source.   Management refuses to spend money on trees for the deer to eat:  the money goes on roads, for the owner was an industrialist and understands the importance of infrastructure.   A lake has been built for duck for local guns, though the thriving sitka near it make for near vertical take-off.   More serious are the rights to tumble twenty woodcock which sell for €10,000 a season.

In the afternoon Guilllaume brought us to a Pro Silva paradise, a magnificent stand of Douglas and Silver fir, where fresh cut logs up to 2.8m3 in size tumble out abundantly while the wood still stands.   The canopy is barely impaired but is sufficiently thinned to allow the already occurring natural regeneration to thrive.  This removal of about one third of the stems is the first step in the process of irregularisation of the stand.

In stark contrast was a neighbouring compartment of the same original scheme which, under previous management some ten years earlier, had been clear-felled, de-stumped, levelled and planted with Corsican pine at 3m spacing to allow mechanical weeding with tractor and flail.  Soil compaction and coarse branched bifurcating pines are the result.

Back in the beauty and abundance of the wood being managed along Pro Silva lines, where generous biodynamical forces laugh at and outdo the loggers, we thought of Ireland and whether, with global warming and double crack of carbon dioxide, our already phenomenal Douglas fir could match these here so gloriously standing or temptingly recumbent on the ground.

(Anthony Keane OSB manages the woods at Glenstal, Co Limerick)

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