Productivity, cost and environmental effects of fully mechanised thinnings on Pinus sylvestris L. planted stands in Spain

E. Tolosana Esteban, Y. Ambrosio Torrijos, S. Vignote Peña


20 Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) commercial early thinnings, fully mechanised, in Central and North Spain are studied. Harvesting system is shortwood, while one grip harvester and forwarder (1 + 1 system) is used in 13 of the 20 operations. The analysis has been carried out from a double point of view. On one hand, productivity and cost equations are developed from stopwatching time study data (13 for harvesters, 17 for forwarders). Both mechanised felling and hauling off by forwarders are analysed. Results are different for heavy forwarders –more than 15 t of unloaded weight– than for light or medium-sized forwarders. Regarding cost circumstances, ratio «Forest harvester to forest operator hourly wages» is nowadays close to 6.0 in Spain. At this stage, mechanised thinning cost proves to be always higher than motor-manual options. Anyway, mechanisation is necessary due to increasing difficulties to find skilled forest operators and the analisys shows that a slight increment in the above mentioned ratio would make mechanised thinnings more profitable than motor-manual. Commercial margin is also estimated for both thinning systems, concluding that silvicultural prescriptions must be often overpassed when possitive margins are one of the operational targets, particularly in mechanised thinnings. On the other hand, inmediate environmental effects are also studied. Soil surface disturbation and compaction –by means of penetrometer cone index– are quantified, as well as tree damages, shrubs cover reduction and slash accumulations. Although these effects can not be considered as severe, damages are greater than those fixed by foreign legal regulations in most developed countries. Besides, some factors conditioning the damages are identified, as a basis to upgrade forest harvesting practices.


forest harvesting; thinning; forest mechanisation; time study; environmental effects; soil compaction