Resource management

Some products studied during StarTree research - image from a presentation by Jonathan Sheppard

Some products studied during StarTree research – image from a presentation by Jonathan Sheppard

The “Resource management” strand of the StarTree project was all about forestry and silviculture for non-wood forest products (NWFPs).

Researchers reviewed the existing state of the art in silvicultural guidelines, forestry planning models and decision support tools. Then, in an industry which usually focuses almost exclusively on timber, they looked at ways to enhance production of NWFPs. They worked closely with their regional stakeholders to choose what to study, and to design Resource Management In-Depth Case Studies.

They looked at NWFPs which were already important crops, including bay leaves, lime flowers, chestnuts, cherries, cork, pine dew honey, pine nuts, sorbus fruits, boletes, blaeberries and cowberries. The products chosen often reflected the countries in which the research organisations were based, so most of the work was done in Spain, Portugal, Catalonia, Finland, Turkey and Germany.

Timber and berries

Blaeberries - photo by Kauko Salo

Blaeberries – photo by Kauko Salo

StarTree’s revised guidelines for bilberry and cowberry detail how to optimise stand management for the joint production of timber and berries.” This raises exciting possibilities for managing woodland in Scotland for production of berries as well as timber. The StarTree research was done in Finland, so further trials would be needed to confirm whether the recommendations work for Scotland as well.

For more on blaeberries, see “Blaeberries: foraging treasure” (Reforesting Scotland Journal 54) and “Project Blaeberry” (Fiona Sinclair, independent researcher).

Timber and mushrooms

Boletus edulis - photo by Kauko Salo

Boletus edulis – photo by Kauko Salo

The StarTree Reader chapter “Promoting wild mushroom yields by forest management” details findings from Finland and Spain, where researchers looked at the effects of different forestry thinning regimes on yields of mycorrhizal edible mushrooms. Both studies found that “the production of timber and wild mushrooms are not competing with each other”. This is another very promising result which may also hold good in Scotland.

Cork and pine nuts

Cork collage from Reforesting Scotland Journal 49

Cork collage from Reforesting Scotland Journal 49

Cork production gives a view into a long-established and intricately managed and regulated NWFP. (See Cork, nuts and resin: Portugal’s long view of non-wood forest products‘, in Reforesting Scotland Journal issue 49.) The StarTree snapshot on Managing cork oak shows how detailed the managment calculations can be in an established NWFP production system.

By contrast, the work on domesticating Mediterranean native pine nut crops has only recently begun, as described in another StarTree snapshot, titled “Pine nuts, gourmet food: from woodlands… or from orchards?“. It was fascinating to visit a stand of conifers and discover that techniques such as grafting were being used, reminiscent of techniques used for managing apple trees in Scotland.

Domestication

Apples at Monimail Tower, Fife - photo by Tony Carter

Apples at Monimail Tower, Fife – photo by Tony Carter

The distinction between NWFPs (sometimes called “wild forest products”) and cultivation e.g. in orchards is blurred. There is a tendency for harvested species to become managed and then eventually cultivated, a dynamic which has been commented on many times during StarTree. Many different opinions have emerged on what should, or should not, be included within NWFP research.

Appropriately, the first keynote speech during the StarTree final conference was: “Wild forest products, between domestication and rewilding“, by Freerk Wiersum. The second keynote speech, by Paul Vantomme, underlined this issue by lamenting the lack of agreement among researchers and policy makers on a definition of what should be included in a study of NWFPs (or even any agreement on which term to use).

The first StarTree field trip gave a striking example of a local native product – the truffle, in Catalonia – undergoing rapid development towards cultivation.

 More on Resource Management