Forest Operations

Auburn University

Forest Operations Overview

Site preparation:  Improves conditions so regeneration (natural and planting) efforts are more successful Shear, rake, or pile: Removes physical obstructions for  other activities, like planting. Concentrates harvesting debris for burning. Creates mineral soil seedbed for regeneration from seed.

Tillage: Improves soil conditions for faster growth of planted seedling.  Repairs damage from soil compaction caused by harvesting machines.

Chemical application: Reduces seedling competition from other non commercial plant species through herbicide application.  Application could be manual using backpack sprayers or mechanical using ground machines or aircraft.

Fertilization: Fertilizer is typically applied after an analysis of tree or soil nutrient status.  While fertilizer can be applied at any time, it is typically applied after trees are tall and density is low (after thinning) so trees can utilize the nutrients for growth.  Application is typically completed by aircraft.

Planting: Improves forest growth by planting genetically improved seedlings.  Planting controls early stand competition through precise spacing of seedlings and its allows for restoration of species no longer on site.

  • Manual planting: The majority of seedlings are planted by hand by small crews employed seasonally.  Planters use dibble bars or hoedads to plants seedlings.
  • Mechanical planting: On large areas with good planting conditions mechanical planting is possible.

Thinning: Reduces competition among trees by removing select individuals.

  • Precommercial thinning: Dense stand are sometimes thinned before trees are big enough to be harvested and sold.
    • Manual: Depending on the size of trees workers could use brush axes, loppers, clearing saws, or chainsaws to fell trees.
    • Mechanical:  Machines with a type of cutting head create regular openings in the stand leaving rows of residual trees.

Pruning: Pruning removes lower branches from tree stems to improve the quality of the wood.  In some cases pruning is used to reduce risk from specific tree diseases. Workers use saws or loppers to cut off limbs.  For higher branches workers may use a ladder to climb the tree or use a pole saw.

Commercial harvest (partial cutting, final felling, and thinning): A number of machines are needed to fell, move, process and load harvested tree stems.  Typical operations use between 2 and 6 machines to accomplish the harvest.  Large tree size or difficult terrain may mean that felling trees is accomplished by a worker with a chainsaw rather than a machine.  Trees can be transported to mills as whole stems, logs, or chips.