The Scottish capercailzie population has declined dramatically in the last 30 years from around 20,000 to just 1000. Forest management is likely to play an important role in any future recovery programme, and this paper describes the development and application of a 'decision-support tool' that allows forest managers to explore the trade-off between habitat provision for capercailzie and timber production. The model links a habitat suitability index with a timber inventory model and uses linear programming to identify short-term harvesting programmes that maximise habitat quality for capercailzie. Application to two case study forests in the Cairngorms suggests that substantial improvements in habitat quality can be achieved by heavier thinning, premature clear fell of unsuitable crops, and transformation of even aged stands through group selection. Within its acknowledged limitations, the model supplies viable management recommendations and potential exists for future development of this model into a practical desktop decision-support tool. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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