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Capsis: modelling and simulating the growth of forest stands

Decision support tools can permit the simulation of silvicultural treatments (thinning, plantation, etc.).  Since 1999, the Joint Research Unit for Botany and Computational Plant Architecture (AMAP) has offered access to the Capsis platform: Computer-Aided Projection of Strategies In Silviculture.

Forêt de hêtres. © PITSCH Michel
Updated on 04/02/2013
Published on 04/02/2013

Capsis is a generic software program that provides access to growth models (tree growth and mortality) or forest dynamics models (which also include dispersion and regeneration) for different types of forests which may be more or less heterogeneous, contain one or mixed species, be situated in temperate or subtropical and tropical regions and be managed in a variety of ways.  The software integrates models developed by teams from various research institutions and universities in both France and other countries.  Such a model is made up of a series of mathematical equations that link the dendrometric characteristics of trees (height, diameter, volume, etc.) and of the stand in which they are growing, their number and their age, their evolution being reflected by the competition that occurs between them (regulated by sylvicultural practices) and by the fertility of the site (soil, climate, landscape).

This tool also has the advantage of simulating forestry management sequences and thus facilitating management choices.  It can compare sylvicultural scenarios (alternating growth stages and interventions) as a function of data supplied by the user: characteristics of the stand and site, type and degree of interventions, etc. These simulations enable an estimation of the reactive capacity of stands to direct interventions and, depending on the models, to major environmental changes (climate, productivity, etc.), thus also rendering them a remarkable pedagogic tool.

In its current version, developed about twelve years ago, Capsis integrates different types of models for growth (individual trees, or simply an average tree) or dynamics, with or without spatialisation; some take account of the entire forest, while others associate demography, genetics and ecophysiology.  The field of application for this software is thus vast, and notably includes regular and single-species stands of the principal tree species grown in France (sessile oak, beech, black, maritime, Corsican or Scots pine, Douglas fir, etc.) or heterogeneous forest stands (irregular and/or mixed, for example: high irregular forests in the Northern Alps, mixed forests arising from colonisation in the Southern Alps).

The software can represent and visualise the series of processes reproduced by the models: growth, competition, mortality, regeneration.  These processes may intervene at different levels of spatial organisation: trees in a stand, a mosaic of tree populations, or stands making up a forest, etc.  Based on the tools that have been integrated in Capsis as projects have progressed, the user can compare different sylvicultural scenarios in a rapid and simple manner.

Thanks to its open and modular architecture, this simulation platform can integrate all types of model applicable to forestry management, from the simplest to the most complex.  Equally relevant to research and innovation, Capsis has been used for several years by the National Forestry Commission (ONF) regarding its publicly-owned forests, as a support for the compilation of its forestry guides on different species and in different regions; discussions are currently under way regarding its transfer to the management of privately-owned forests.

Find out more

  • Samuel Dufour-Kowalski, Benoît Courbaud, Philippe Dreyfus, Céline Meredieu, François de Coligny, « Capsis : an open software framework and community for forest growth modelling », Annals of Forest Science, (2012) 69:221–233.