how the timber is harvested
  • Forestry

Timber Harvesting: Its Methods, Stages & Implementation

Timber harvesting is a forest management practice that requires careful planning and strict adherence to the chosen methods. Otherwise, it can bring significant economic losses to forestry and harm the environment. In this article, you will learn about the leading causes, techniques, and timber harvesting stages and how such satellite technologies as the EOSDA Forest Monitoring software can significantly improve timber harvest management and the entire forestry.

Reasons For Timber Harvesting

Forestry requires the right approach to the care and restoration of trees. In particular, excessive methods of harvesting timber can lead to catastrophic consequences for agriculture and the environment. At the same time, if the state of the forest is not controlled, the effects can also be highly damaging. Here are some reasons for timber harvesting.

Reaching Trees Maximum Product Value

When mature trees have reached their total weight, their growth, health only decrease. That is why the most significant income is provided by selling wood from mature trees. At the same time, old forests with dead trees are habitats for many wild animals, including spotted woodpeckers, owls, flying squirrels, and raccoons. Therefore, part of the forest must be left during logging.

harvested timber

Improving Forest Value And Health

Removal of diseased and old plants contributes to crop trees’ growth and increases their value. Using crop tree release (CTR), we can raise the productivity of individual plants and improve the habitat of wild animals. Therefore, foresters often release species that bears, deer, grouse squirrels, and others use for food when harvesting timber.

Despite the apparent benefits, excessive timber harvesting is harmful. If there are not enough plants to cover the area, growth per acre will decrease. Moreover, the quality of many trees grown outdoors is deteriorating. Therefore, foresters maintain planting density optimal for particular species and age plants.

Creating A Fire-Resistant Forest

Although any forest is vulnerable to fire, some methods of timber harvesting can significantly reduce this disaster or its consequences risk. One of the most common ways is to increase the distance between tree crowns using harvesting timber. It is more difficult for fires to spread if they are located farther apart, even with strong winds. Also, when choosing plants for logging large fire-resistant trees should be left intact.

wide-planted forest

Encouraging Regeneration Of Desired Species

For trees to grow intensively, it is necessary to encourage their regeneration. So, foresters need to create the conditions required for a particular type during logging. For example, paper birch and aspen need abundant sunlight. Others, such as beech and red spruce, need partial shade. The third, so-called tolerant, plant species develop well in both conditions.

Regeneration cutting accelerates a different species’ growth. So, timber harvesting with clear-cutting is suitable for stimulating paper birch or cherry. The elimination of competing seedlings and shrubs can help other species. At the same time, it is necessary to control trees’ conditions for regeneration to be successful. For example, it is best not to do any operations if the plants cannot produce the required seeds for recovery.

Choosing the best time to harvest timber, remember that most breeds have abundant sources only during a particular year period.

EOSDA Forest Monitoring

State-of-the-art digital platform that monitors your forest stands wherever they are.

Timber Harvesting Methods: Choose The Best To Meet Your Purpose

Different methods of timber harvesting depend on the tasks. Here are the main ones.


This technique involves all plants’ removal in an area. Thus, foresters imitate natural disaster results, the biological “mechanisms” of this process. This method is most effective on species that need full sunlight : maple, cedar pine, eucalyptus, and paper birch.

Why is clear-cutting the preferred method of timber harvesting?
It is not entirely true. In fact, despite the benefits described above, today, clear-cutting is considered a less preferred timber harvesting method for economic and environmental reasons.


The essence of this timber harvesting approach is the removal of mature trees for several collections within 10-15 years. It creates shelter for shade-tolerant seedlings like red spruce and food sources for wildlife. Shelterwood is best suited for plantings from predominantly mature trees.

Seed Tree

According to this method, foresters leave more than five trees on the cut area remotely from each other. They provide seeds for natural reforestation, and in the future, they can serve as a woodpecker habitat. To harvest timber this way, the most suitable are plants with high growth rates, sowing capacity, and wind resistance.

Group Selection

This timber harvesting method is small-scale clear-cutting when a stand is cut down over 40-50 years by groups of trees. A cut-down area depends on a grown plant type: openings of less than one-quarter of an acre are suitable for shade-tolerant trees and larger spaces for sun-loving trees. As a part of selective logging, this way to harvest timber is used to gather high-quality logs and is one of the most expensive methods.

logging a group of trees

Single-Tree Selection

This approach is the most intensive among major methods of timber harvesting. It involves the removal of individual mature, low-quality, or competing trees. Among the advantages is constant wood production. However, this way to harvest timber avoids damaging the remaining plants — best for small areas with shade-tolerant species. For sun-loving trees, you should choose a different way.

Process Of Timber Harvesting

Regardless of chosen ways to harvest timber, there are usually three stages: preparation, operations, and post-harvesting. Let’s consider each of them.


There can be different goals to harvest timber: prevention of tree diseases, habitat improvement, recreation, and financial income. However, regardless of this, the preparation stage includes:

  • creation of high-precision topographic maps indicating the location of the most important natural and artificial objects (roads, bridges, crossing streams, and ecologically vulnerable areas);
  • forest inventory to assess potential harvesting timber volumes and obtain information on species composition and the most profitable commercial areas;
  • stock mapping and tree tagging to locate desired plants and audit to meet market needs;
  • planning for stream crossings and new roads to reduce costs and increase productivity;
  • defining no-go areas to conserve biodiversity and secure timber harvesting operations and the definition of buffer zones for the conservation of the environment and cultural sites.

Carrying out these preparatory activities allows you to optimize resources and organize further stages most efficiently.

constructed road for transportation of the harvested timber

Timber Harvesting Operations

The process itself begins with the selection of suitable machinery. It allows you to achieve your goals faster and minimize environmental damage. The complex of logging equipment includes machines for felling trees and their further transportation . The final choice of machinery depends on the timber harvesting technique.

The next step is the construction and maintenance of roads and log stairwells. These activities affect financial costs, work efficiency, and the environment’s state. Next, it is necessary to determine the timing of timber harvesting operations, organize the hauling of logs with minimal impact on soil, and, if necessary, instruct personnel. Another essential operation is the directional felling of trees. It avoids damage to remaining plants, keeps workers safe, and facilitates warehousing.


After carrying out all timber harvesting operations, it is necessary to implement some measures to eliminate the production consequences:

  • closure of roads and skid trails for ground stabilization and water movement;
  • drainage of wharves and quarries, as well as, if necessary, restoration of vegetation;
  • camp cleaning;
  • drawing up a report with a post-harvest inventory and analysis of forest state.

The forest owner or its manager usually carries out forest management activities.

the process of timber harvesting with machinery

Sustainable Timber Harvesting: A Long Term Perspective

Sustainable timber harvesting methods contribute not only to tree regeneration but also to the long-term health of the forest. They involve keeping the best trees until young and healthy plants grow or destroying all vegetation to eliminate competition for new shoots.

This timber harvesting type often contrasts with the so-called “commercial clear-cutting” , leaving a few little trees. Unfortunately, most often, such plants are slow-growing and weak. It adversely affects the health of their offspring: it becomes more vulnerable to diseases and pests. Together with other human activities that harm the ecosystem, such as palm oil deforestation, this approach can have catastrophic consequences.

The “commercial” type is popular because it provides income in the shortest possible time. Sustainable timber harvesting is much more profitable in the long run as it produces better quality trees. Thus, it is a more beneficial way for forestry.

How EOSDA Forest Monitoring Can Assist Timber Harvesting

Forest state analysis, determining a timber harvesting plan, requires significant efforts from the forest- and landowners and the companies engaged in its felling. The EOSDA Forest Monitoring software allows you to optimize forestry operations and reduce economic and environmental risks.

Monitoring Of Unauthorized Cuttings

This problem causes severe losses for forest owners. They can be state, utility, or private individuals. Unauthorized timber harvesting is often accompanied by significant damage to the ecosystem, as environmental problems are entirely ignored. EOSDA Forest Monitoring helps to observe woodlands constantly and with the help of Change Detection technology operatives of the forest area where unauthorized loggins took place. It does not require any field trips and helps save resources and time.

detected deforested area
Deforested area during Q3 2021: detected with EOSDA Forest Monitoring tool.

Timber Harvesting Quality Monitoring

When agreeing on forest logging, forest owners always delineate the area set aside for timber harvesting. Sometimes, there are buffer zones for cutting down if a decided timber amount has not been reached in the designated location or if part of the area was in a hard-to-reach place. Also, a forest owner can delineate areas in which felling can never be carried out. Since forest areas are usually huge, monitoring whether a timber harvesting contractor complied with territorial restrictions is challenging. EOSDA Forest Monitoring is a nifty tool to track the cut areas and compare them with pre-agreed ones.

Reporting Without Field Trips

Contractors have to report how much wood and what area they cut down. EOSDA Forest Monitoring allows them to delineate the felled areas and show them in the report. In this way, contractors offer an area location and confirm that operations only occurred in the agreed areas.

Thus, remote sensing, particularly satellite technology, plays an increasingly important role in various industries. Since forestry is no exception, satellite EOSDA Forest Monitoring software allows you to solve the necessary tasks effectively, including timber harvesting. Its broad functionality contributes to sustainable forestry management and the entire industry.

About the author:

Peter Kogut Scientist at EOS Data Analytics

Petro Kogut has a PhD in Physics and Mathematics (1998). He successfully defended two dissertations: “Stability and Optimal Stabilization of Neutral Integro-Differential Equations” (1989) and “Stability and Optimal Stabilization of Neutral Integro-Differential Equations, Homogenization of Optimal Control Problems for Systems with Distributed Parameters” (1998).

He is the author of multiple scientific publications, including “Variational Model with Nonstandard Growth Conditions for Restoration of Satellite Optical Images via Their Co-Registration with Synthetic Aperture Radar”.

Dr. Kogut has received two grants: International Fund of Fundamental Investigations - “Vidrodzhennia” (1996) and Ukrainian Fund of Fundamental Investigations (1997).

In 1996, he became the Soros Associated Professor. A year later, he received The First Prize of National Academy of Science of Ukraine for his research in homogenization theory of optimal control problems.

Dr. Kogut has received an honorary decoration, “Excellence in Education of Ukraine” (2014) and the medal of A. M. Makarov, “For significant merits” (2019).

Since 2014, Petro has been the head of the department of differential equations in the Oles Honchar Dnipro National University.

Some of Dr. Kogut’s hobbies include fishing and woodworking.

Dr. Kogut provides scientific advice to EOS Data Analytics.

Recent articles

Agrinova Grows By Offering Satellite Data Analytics
  • Case study

Agrinova Grows By Offering Satellite Data Analytics

Agricultural consulting Agrinova Group has been using EOSDA Crop Monitoring for over two years now, pioneering remote sensing services in the European Union and Eastern Europe.

Lidar vs. Radar: Differences & Uses To Pick The Right One
  • Remote sensing

Lidar vs. Radar: Differences & Uses To Pick The Right One

Lidar targets objects with pinpoint accuracy, while radar delivers wide, all-weather coverage. But it's not so much lidar vs. radar in real-world applications as picking the right tool for the job.

EOS Data Analytics Partners With Agro Gestión
  • Partnership

EOS Data Analytics Partners With Agro Gestión

With a focus on innovation and sustainability, EOS Data Analytics and Agro Gestión's partnership will bring cutting-edge satellite technology to more agribusinesses in Argentina, Paraguay, and Spain.