British Columbia's Coastal Forests Variable Retention Decision Aid for Biodiversity and Habitat Retention


  • Ken Zielke
  • Bryce Bancroft
  • Kathie Sw
  • Jennifer Turner



aggregated or group retention, biodiversity, biological anchors, biological legacies, dispersed retention, managing risk, retention targets, variable retention


Variable retention (VR) refers to a strategy that is designed to retain biological legacies, such as large old trees, snags, and downed logs, at harvest to create and/or maintain structurally complex stands with a range of silvicultural systems. The retention system is a new silvicultural system (Forest Practices Code – Operational and Site Planning Regulations) designed for use under a VR strategy (Mitchell and Beese 2002). By retaining certain structural elements, habitat carrying capacity can be maintained and connectivity can be conserved over the landscape. The planning and implementation of VR is a complex process, with many potential risks that must be understood if one is to successfully achieve multiple management objectives. With the implementation of the retention system in coastal British Columbia, researchers have generated much information and learned many lessons.

This Stand Establishment Decision Aid (SEDA) is intended to provide general guidance and points to consider when implementing the various structures (aggregated or dispersed) that are associated with the retention system in British Columbia's coastal forests. Additional information related to retention and variable retention can be found in the Resource and Reference list at the end of this document. It is important to note that the list provided in this reference section is not exhaustive and more information is available, but not necessarily cited. Reference material that is not available on-line can be ordered through libraries or the Queen's Printer at: