GIS, “Mapping” Our Forests Future

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are state of the art computer based tools developed to enhance information management. These tools facilitate the collection, storage, utilization, analysis, maintenance and management of digital information that can be related to a given geographic location on the earth.

CBPP’s Woodlands Department has had a GIS since 1989. We are using a software package called ArcInfo on a Unix platform server connected to five PC’s. This is the most popular GIS software in the world for resource based organizations. It contains a powerful suite of tools to manage and analyze our geographic (map) and tabular databases.

Our database consists of a variety of detailed information about the forest landscape within our timber limits. Examples of the kinds of data we use are:

Landbase Data

  • lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, roads, transmission lines, timber ownership boundaries, forested land, parks, etc.

Forest Data

  • tree species, age, height, density, site quality, wood volume by species, silviculture treatments, etc.

Disturbance Data

  • cutting, fire, insect damage, blowdown, etc. (all stored by year of disturbance).

Topographic Data

  • elevation contours, land features, building, etc.

The bulk of this information is from the provincial forest inventory. It was collected from detailed interpretation of aerial photographs and satellite images and from exhaustive ground surveys.  Disturbances are updated on an annual basis using new aerial photography and satellite imagery. Forest and landbase information are updated on a ten year cycle.

This database is used by our planning department primarily in the preparation of annual and five-year operating plans. To describe this process in simple terms, our planners digitize (add) lines into the  GIS to represent the roads to be built and areas to be harvested.  They then ask the system to produce a map of each given area and a report of the volume of wood by species inside the area. This map and report is then submitted to various government agencies for approval or modification. Once approved, the maps and a report are sent to our logging contractors as a guide of where to harvest, how much volume to expect to get and where to build the roads to access these areas.

In a broader context, we use our GIS to calculate AAC’s (Annual Allowable Cuts). The AAC is the maximum sustainable volume we can harvest in a given area. This ensures that we do not harvest more volume than is growing each year. In the near future we also plan to incorporate a variety of new information on other forest values into our GIS. These other forest values would include wildlife, recreation, and aesthetics. This will help us plan our operation to minimize the impact of harvesting on such values.

There is a saying that “information is power”. GIS is a good example of this because by using the information tools provided by GIS, the Company is able to manage our forests wisely for generations to come.