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Chapter 2. Productive Capacity

Overview of Maintenance of Productive Capacity of Forest and Rangeland Ecosystems


October 2003


"Comparison of net forest land and rangeland available for timber or grazing production to total forest and rangeland will provide a measure of the suitability or availability of the these lands for commercial forest and grazing production to meet society's demands for wood and livestock products."

-Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable
Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests



Productive capacity refers to the capability and availability of the forest and rangeland bases to produce goods and services for society. Many human populations depend on forests and rangelands directly or indirectly for a wide range of extractive and non-extractive goods and services. Opportunities to provide goods and services in a sustainable manner are clearly linked to the productive capacity. If the productive capacity of forests and rangelands is exceeded, there is the risk of ecosystem decline. For forests and rangelands to continue to function, it is necessary to maintain the presence of the land base itself; to understand the levels of goods and services now provided; and to determine levels that are likely to be sustainable (Roundtable on Sustainable Forests, 2002).

Measuring productive capacity however, requires a long–term perspective. Information on natural processes and land use changes that affect productive capacity is often absent or does not exist. Hence, it is not an easy task to measure the level at which “sustainable production” occurs. The true productivity of a forest must be modeled over several centuries rather than in just a few years.

Luther Pass, El Dorado County
Luther Pass, El Dorado County

Montreal process indicators for measuring productive capacity

Montreal Process indicators 10 through14 focus on measuring the productive capacity of forests and rangelands by evaluating the availability and capability to produce goods and services. Indicators 10-13 focus on production of timber and forage, while indicator 14 is related to non-timber and livestock forage products. By intention, the discussions on productive capacity are more focused on production of traditional commodities such as wood and livestock forage.

Key measures for indicator 10 are the amount of land available for timber or forage production and the total amount of merchantable timber volume and forage. They show how much land is available for timber or forage production, compared with the total forest and rangeland area. The difference between total area and net area demonstrates that some forests are not going to be harvested for a variety of reasons (e.g., they are located in urban areas, or protected for biodiversity, recreation and aesthetic reasons).

Indicators 11 and 12 focus on the growing stock of timber or forage as a fundamental element in determining the productive capacity of an area. Knowledge of growing stock, and how it changes is central to the consideration of sustainable production. Additional characteristics of the growing stock including knowledge of growth rates, soil (site) characteristics, and age class distribution of forests, may also assist with the interpretation of the productivity of the land base both for wood growing and a wide variety of other use such as wildlife habitat (see Habitat Diversity or Population Status of Native Species).

Indicator 13 compares actual harvest levels of timber and livestock to the sustainable level permitted by forest management plans or other measures. In order to determine sustainable levels of timber goods , scientists often compare the amount of timber harvested to the amount of timber grown. Monitoring the volume of products annually removed relative to the amount grown, provides an indication of a forest’s ability to provide a continuing supply of products, as well as economic and ecological opportunities (Montreal Process Working Group, 1998) (see Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators or Roundtable on Sustainable Forests).

Indicator 14 focuses on production of non-timber and livestock uses such as berries, mushrooms, greenery, and game wildlife species. It provides measures of the forest to sustain production of a wide variety of products and use.


Assessment sections summarizing Chapter 2: maintenance of productive capacity of forest and rangeland ecosystems

In this Assessment, FRAP will address the criterion of maintaining the productive capacity of California’s forests and rangelands with a series of sections. The material contains four sections with links to other Assessment sections that provide information relevant to this criterion.

The first three sections focus on forests. Forest Land Base covers area of the forest land in terms of ownership, management patterns, age distribution, and size classes. Additionally, this section will address changes to the timberland base in California. The next section, Timberlands Inventory Characteristics, presents a current inventory of timberland as well as a projection for future inventory. This section also assesses growth rates, mortality, and harvest levels of timberland by regional ownership class. Maintenance of Productivity of Forest Lands by Zoning analyzes the extent to which privately owned timberlands are protected by zoning consistent with growth of commercial forest products.

The final section discusses the productive capacity of rangelands used for grazing of domestic livestock. Rangeland Area and Condition looks at area, ownership patterns, forage production, degradations from exotic species, and water quality issues on rangelands.

Each section related to indicators 10-13 is linked in a separate Adobe Acrobat pdf file below:

There is no discussion of indicator 14, removal of non–timber products, in this Assessment chapter. Rather, links are provided to the sections titled Population Status of Native Species, Non–native Invasive Species on Forests and Rangelands, Recreation, Water Supply and Use, and Wildlife and Fish Consumptive and Non Consumptive Uses. These sections include discussion on availability of non-timber or livestock products. Each section related to indicator 14 is linked in a separate Adobe Acrobat pdf file below:


Literature cited

The Montreal Process Working Group. 1998. The Montreal Process: what is the Montreal Process? criteria and indicators. Web site accessed June 13, 2003. http://mpci.org/criteria_e.html

Roundtable on Sustainable Forests. 2002. Criteria level summary: criterion 2. Web site accessed February 25, 2002.
http://www.sustainableforests.net/index.php




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