A forest stand is a contiguous community of trees sufficiently uniform in composition, structure, age, size, class, distribution, spatial arrangement, site quality, condition, or location to distinguish it from adjacent communities.
A forest stand is commonly described as in 10ths or 10%s. Thus a ratio could be given of: 3 Ponderosa pines, 2 mangrove trees, 5 silver spruces. If there was a mixed stand that stand mix could be described as mixed up to 10%, mixed 10–40% and a mixed stand over that amount.
The form of mixing of the tree types is commonly given as:
- individuals – when there are a few unconnected trees of a type.
- troop – up to 5 trees connected of one type.
- group – when there are more than 5 trees, but they are shorter than a harvestable tree.
- thicket – when there are more than 5 trees, but they are taller than a harvestable tree to around 0.5 ha.
- rotten group (cluster) – a packed together standing aggregate of trees, trees in the rotten group have different heights and different depths or a stripwise arrangement. Rotten is from German, Rotte and means pack. These trees are linked together in small rotten groups separated by bigger interstices. This means they are ideal for mountain afforestation.
A stand's spacing may be described by the crown cover of the trees. It can thus be delimited as:
- Packed – the crowns all overlap when looked at from above
- Closed – the crowns all touch, but do not overlap
- Light – when there is space between the crowns that is even
- Spacey/gappy – when a few trees are close and yet there are many clearings between these little groups
Stands are not logical, ecologically defined management units. Instead they have evolved from the Normalwald concept, which was predicated on the idea of harvesting efficiency and thus that forest land was primarily to generate income from timber production. Stands allow easier forest inventory and planning. The concept has by way of extension been applied across all forestry practice in the world, but originated in the Mitteleuropa of the late 18th and early 19th century with the mercantilist tradition, Prussian education and emergence of modern silviculture.
Along with the Normalwald concept has come the idea that stands are standardized in terms of size, species mix, age class and other tree metrics and that forestry should aim to impose this on nature where it has not existed up till now.
As stand is from an economic timber forestry perspective, it is very focused on the tree element of forests. It is not considerate of the other elements within a forest such as shrubs, animals or topography and alternative terms may better fit ecological or other land value purposes within forests. The English term grove is one example. Also proposed is eco-unit. Other terms may also work, but be on different scales, such as copse or woodland. To be useful in silviculture such terms must be clearly defined and consistently applied. Lacking that stand is likely to remain the preferred unit to be used by foresters and others managing forests, despite its limitations.
- Nyland, Ralph D. (2007). Silviculture: concepts and applications (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights: Waveland Press.
- Nyland, Ralph D. (2007). Silviculture: concepts and applications (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights: Waveland Press. p. 5.
- Eidg Forschungsanstalt WSL. "Rottenaufforstung im Gebirge". waldwissen.net (in German).
- Puettmann, Klaus J.; Coates, K. David; Messier, Christian (2009). A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 978-1597261463.
- Oldeman, Roelof A. A. (1990). Forests: Elements of Silvology. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 624. ISBN 9783642752117.