Harvesting. It addresses the main aspects of harvesting operations, including planning, road
construction, felling, extraction, transport and post-harvest assessment.
The module provides basic and more detailed information on wood harvesting, as well as links
to wood harvesting tools and case studies of effective harvesting.
Wood harvesting encompasses felling, extraction, on site/landing processing, and loading of trees, logs or other tree parts onto trucks.
Harvesting has a lasting impact on forest structure and ecosystem functioning.
Environmentally sound forest harvesting and transport
operations are therefore essential components of sustainable forestry. Good practices begin with careful planning, trained and motivated
workers with technically competent supervisors. Six areas are particularly critical from a sustainability standpoint. They are planning, roads,
felling, extraction, long-distance transport and post-harvest assessment.
Planning is broadly done at three levels, the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Strategic plans span over long periods and large
areas. Tactical plans cover shorter periods typically at landscape or watershed level. Operational plans incorporate actions needed to
Roads built in connection to harvesting are typically classified as haul roads stretching from landing to mill or shipping point, feeder roads
built to reduce skidding/forwarding distances, strip roads to extract wood from stump to landing, and access roads e.g. for labour, material
and connection to administrative centres. Poor practices can be very damaging and costly, e.g. causing erosion and landslides. Competent
staff should be engaged in planning and construction of roads. Adequate maps need to be available. Areas of importance include drainage,
avoidance of steep grades, avoidance of sensitive areas and crossing of waterways.
Felling should be done to accommodate extraction and avoid damage to residual trees, i.e. a form of wood transport; this is sometimes
called directional felling. Felling is done using axes, saws, chainsaws, feller bunchers or harvesters.
Extraction by means of dragging stems or logs on the ground is called skidding. Skidding can be done by humans, draught animals or by
machines, so called skidders. Forwarding refers to stems or logs carried by humans or on a trailer after an animal or a machine (forwarder).
Skidders and forwarders can be wheeled or tracked. Crawler tractors (bulldozers) are often used for skidding in tropical rain forests.