History of Pro Silva Forestry

Shelterwood Systems were introduced toward the end of the 18th Century in Germany, but it was not until G. L. Hartig published his famous book in 1791 entitled ‘Instructions on wood cultivation for the forester’, that the Shelterwood System became widely popular and dominated German forestry in the 19th century. During this time and up to the beginning of the 20th century a number of variations were developed. Parallel to this, plantation forestry also expanded as over-exploited forests and land were restocked.

In Germany the ‘Dauerwald Movement’ (Continuous Forest Movement) developed toward the end of this period at the beginning of the 20th century. It sought to abolish clear-fells, encourage mixed species and ages within stands and ensure harvestable timber occurred over the entire stand. The Dauerwald movement can be better understood as a set of principles rather than a system of management.

Clear-Fell Forestry was however the accepted practice in the huge areas of German forestry and Dauerwald Movement can be seen as a response to these large areas of clear-fell, generally of Scots Pine or Norway Spruce.

Prof. Möller, who founded the Dauerwald Movement, debated passionately in its favour, while established forest practice was equally passionately defended. This situation was heightened by the growing strength of the Nazi party, who used the Dauerwald Movement in it’s propaganda turning the already enflamed debate into a very hot potato. Professors lost their seats over their opposition to the Dauerwald Movement and much bitterness remained between the two sides for decades.

Despite this a working group was set up in 1950 called the ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft Naturgemässte Waldwirtschaft’. The ANW is the German branch of ProSilva Europe. The name ProSilva was taken from the charity trust ProSilva Helvetica, set up by the famous Swiss forester Walter Ammon in 1948 to support ‘plenter’ forestry in Switzerland. Pro Silva Helvetica has no links with ProSilva Europe or its affiliated national groups, but shares many of the same goals.

In Britain and Ireland it was mainly German foresters who introduced the ideas of the Shelterwood and Selection Systems. Examples of these Systems can be found practiced in Britain on a number of forest estates (such as Stourhead Estate or the Longleat Estate in England), but the total area under these systems is very small.

In Ireland Prof. Clear was already pointing out the great reversion in many parts of Europe to more natural forms of silviculture in 1944 (The Role of Mixed Woods in Irish Silviculture by T. Clear, B.Agr.Sc.). He also notes the high degree to which mature plantations were composed of a mixture of species in Ireland at that time. Although examples of Alternative Silvicultural Systems undoubtedly exist in Ireland, they are confined to very small areas and are often more a result of a lack of any clear management system rather than alternative management. This situation is changing as alternatives to clear-fell plantation forestry gain increasing acceptance.

You can help show how this is changing by suggesting forests to us  that you feel are or could be managed under ProSilva forestry principles in Ireland.

Sept 2011 Please note: a new important all Ireland Database of Low Impact Silvicultural System (LISS) / Continuous Cover Forests (CCF) is currently being compiled, see more here

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