What is the AFI ?

The AFI (Association Futaie Irrégulière) is an association registered by French law, setup in 1991 by a group of private forestry consultants in order to promote the management of irregular stands. It aims to share technical information and is founded on the principles advanced by ProSilva. Although these two associations share many common objectives they both operate within their own separate spheres.

The AFI aims to promote the most effective management practices and silvicultural systems for irregular stand structures, endowing stands with greater resilience and providing managers with a better capacity to respond to external factors (climatic events, market fluctuation, changing social demands…).

 Over the last 15 years, the AFI managers have refined the broader objectives and the detailed silvicultural systems of irregular stand silviculture.

 In order to assist with the promotion and to better define these silvicultural techniques, the AFI decided to set up a network of research stands. Each one of the research stands is monitored providing detailed economic and ecological increment data.

 The first AFI research stand outside of France was established in England at Stourhead in March 2006; the first AFI research established in Ireland was set-up in March 2007 at Curraghchase.




These are multiple objectives:

 To adhere to all the principles of irregular forest management (economic, silvicultural and mensurational) without prescribing individual treatments.

 To demonstrate through the monitoring of research stands, that the principles of continuous cover forestry can be used in widely differing situations (species mixtures, site types, harvesting regimes ...). Samples taken over a wide number of different stands provide data for a range of site types, reactions to silvicultural interventions and to climatic events.

 To test that biological automation mechanisms contribute to a reduction in production and harvesting costs, while also increasing the levels of income and capital growth.

 To promote the best examples, demonstrating quantitative economic benefits as well as growth characteristics (incremental growth, quality production, returns, expenses, capital growth ...).

 To contribute to greater understanding of continuous cover forestry. To focus, in accordance with the wishes of forest owners and within individual site restrictions, on the higher and lower thresholds above which the stand loses its plasticity: difficulties in obtaining  quality regeneration, species interactions, optimising quality production ...

 To ensure a flow of information, as well as on the solutions advocated as well as on any outstanding issues. This last point being perhaps the most important.



Unlike irregular coniferous stands, referenced by the spruce-fir single stem selection forests, methodologies and technical detail for irregular broadleaved stands does not feature in standard silvicultural texts. It is therefore in this area that the association has focused its efforts. It also looks at some specific issues such as the conversion of coniferous plantations to irregular forest, (alternatives to clear-cutting and plantation forestry).

Ongoing project development has lead to the emergence of secondary objectives. Thus, in the wake of the storm of 26 December 1999, the network attempted to identify the factors that might have contributed to the most serious cases of damage.

Measurements on these irregular stands provided additional results, such as the order of magnitude of certain growth characteristics such as coefficients of variation, useful information for designing research stands for monitoring forest management.

 The Association Futaie Irrégulière (AFI)


  The AFI - ENGREF Network: network of research stands to monitor continuous cover forest management.
 The AFI - ENGREF network was created in 1992. This initiative was set up in order to monitor the development of continuous cover forest stands under dedicated management regimes. Monitoring growth and economic characteristics within permanent research plots with a standardised methodology enables management to be recorded without it being influenced.

 The AFI now has a network of 82 research plots spread across eleven regions in France, (Alsace, Normandy, Burgundy, Centre, Ardennes, Franche-Comté, Ile-de-France, Lorraine, Loire , Picardie, Rhône-Alpes), as well as in England and in Ireland, (Stourhead, Curraghchase). The network has been established with the support numerous public partners, Regional Services of Forests and Timber (SERFOB), Centers for Regional Forestry Property (CRPF), as well as funding for regional councils and with the technical support the National School for Rural Engineering, Water and Forests (ENGREF Nancy).

 For all the research stands within the network an agreement with the forest owner is required, as well as the manager's commitment to adhere to a protocol for data collection. This initial step could be contemplated without a strong desire on the manager’s part to be involved in the improvement of knowledge about this type of forestry.

 The research plots are monitored using a unique patented tree growth and economic protocol (registered at the INPI). With every measurement on a five-year rotation the results gain in significance. But it is clear that this method of working will increasingly bear fruit over time, especially in the field of economic monitoring.
 This is the only European network of irregular forestry research stands which rigorously quantifies continuous cover forest management, in terms of economic, environmental and social outputs of sustainable forest management.
 The AFI - ENGREF network now has over 10 years of a track record in monitoring the management of irregular stands. With each re-measure or new research stand the database is enriched, helping to promote this type of forestry and refining technical aspects of the silviculture.



  Organisation of the network  

The network is made up of individual research stands that function at two scales :

 At the ‘compartment’ scale, (between 5 and 15 ha): provides a representative intensity of mensurational monitoring (changes in species mixtures, assortment breakouts) and economic performance (balance between income and expenditure, time allocation to different activities). These records need to be made in close collaboration of the forest manager.
 At the ‘tree’ scale: 10 permanent sample plots per research stand allows for the individual monitoring of recorded trees, (diameter, quality, total height, diameter and height of the crown), and for monitoring of regeneration. This also allows for quantifying pole size material as well as the status of any coppice. Biological indicators are also recorded as well as standing and fallen deadwood.


To date there are 82 research stands that provide the opportunity to at once :
 consolidate the results of mensuration,
 monitor the individual trees sampled for changes in growth rates, changes in quality and amounts of regeneration,
 monitor economic factors (analysis of cashflows and capital variation).
On these 82 research stands, some of which have been measured for the fourth time.
  The AFI network is presently:
 82 research stands, one of which is in England, one in Ireland, four in Luxembourg and Three in Wallonia,
 a wide range of different site types sampled,
 more than 20,000 trees inventoried and individually monitored (27 broadleaved species, 12 conifers),
 many mensurational variables measured.

The statistical inventory results recorded on a 5 year cycle provide :
 the ability to estimate with a degree of confidence individual parameters (species, diameter, quality …),
 to provide mangers with threshold values (BA/ha, N/ha, % quality A+B, regeneration potential …),
 to quantify the variables within dynamic mechanisms (growth rates, time of passage, rotation of deadwood …),
 to follow the evolution and development of young stands (regeneration, pole size material …),
 to develop prescriptions for management (management of the under storey, quality management …),
 to correlate a number of variables and to refine indicators such as stand index, wide height, value increment …
The greatest part of the network consists of broadleaved stands in accordance with the objectives of the founding group. Six research stands have since been established in coniferous stands to demonstrate transformation of Douglas fir, Corsican pine … to continuous cover.
At present the AFI network covers a fairly wide range of site types. This is a reflection of the wish to provide as wide a number of exemplar sites when the network was set up.
This allows saying in the first instance that continuous cover forestry is applied to a very wide range of site types. Knowing that the different research stands have been set up in forests where the management was ongoing, without any previous experimentation, this suggests that continuous cover forest management is neither restricted to extremely fertile or poor sites.
  Map of continuous cover forestry research stands :

  The AFI : In need of knowing more !  


A number of technical documents have already been published. These reports are either annual summaries or research stand summaries and are intended in the first instance for forest owners and managers as well as for the groups within the partnership. Other more general works are destined for a wider forestry public. These reports and summaries are designed to spread the results and the findings recorded from continuous cover forestry treatments which are a requirement of the funding bodies supporting the project.
The main mensurational and economic results have been brought together in a report document published in 2005 (standing volumes, quality assessments, growth rates, correlation between limiting factors: basal area and level of regeneration …). The economic results resent the analysis of cash flows as well as the progression of capital (in standing values and expectation values).
Additional reading :
Gestion des peuplements irréguliers : réseau AFI-ENGREF : Bilan 1991 - 2005(Bruciamacchie, Tomasini, Susse).
Gestion des peuplements irréguliers : réseau AFI-ENGREF : Suivi économique - 2001 (Bruciamacchie, Tomasini).
Gestion des peuplements irréguliers : réseau AFI-ENGREF : Bilan 1992 - 2000 (Bruciamacchie, Grandjean, Maréchal).
Plusieurs mémoires de fin d'études d'élèves-ingénieurs FIF.
Différentes brochures techniques.

Traduction de Phil. Morgan