What is GIS?
Knowledge is power, and the technology now available to our foresters and wildlife biologists has unlocked that power in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. In its relatively short existence, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become the standard in mapping for the forest industry.
If that were the end of the story, one would still be amazed at the technological advances of forest mapping over the last decade. We've gone from hand drawing maps on fuzzy, black and white photos to digitizing stand boundaries on the ground with handheld GPS or remotely using images captured by satellites orbiting 600 miles above the earth with a resolution of 18 inches. However, today's GIS technology goes far beyond the simple task of mapping. It has become a business-critical tool.
Southern Forestry Consultants' application of GIS in forest management can best be described in two categories: Assessment and Analysis. Utilizing both of these aspects, we equip ourselves as foresters with the best information available to aid our clients in the decision-making process with the use of Environmental Systems Research Institute's ArcGIS™ software.
Southern Forestry's GIS capabilities continue to expand as our technology advances. While this essential tool will never replace the experience and relationships that our professionals have gained with their clients, it enhances our ability to make the most informed management decisions possible and keeps Southern Forestry Consultants on the cutting edge of our industry.
Assessment & Analysis
Southern Forestry Consultants’ application of GIS in forest management can best be described in two categories: Assessment and Analysis. Utilizing both of these aspects, we equip ourselves as foresters with the best information available to aid our clients in the decision-making process.
Assessment of our clients’ resources begins with improved mapping and classification techniques. We identify forest stands based on cover types and species, silvicultural practices, and management goals. From there, all pertinent data is stored in a database which allows us to track a number of things, including stand characteristics, management history, and in some cases timber cruise and appraisal data. Coupled with other data sets, this information allows us to evaluate performance and derive accurate estimates of a stand’s value. This “value” is based on the individual client’s goals, and may refer to financial, wildlife, aesthetics, conservation, and recreation.
Once a property’s resources and history are being tracked in Southern Forestry’s GIS, our clients begin to benefit from ongoing analysis. Forecasts and simulations are used to support management decisions before making any changes on the ground. GIS allows us to analyze the marketability of timber by packaging multiple simultaneous sales on tracts that are similar in product and near each other. Prescribed burn planning via GIS promotes a safer, more effective burn through smoke and weather modeling and analysis. Reforestation analysis using GIS ensures that the site prep methods and species planted are appropriate for the stands soil productivity and topography. Pond and road construction can be improved and visualized before projects ever take place through the use of digital elevation modeling and GPS ground work. High quality wall maps and map books can now be produced for clients and foresters that include a variety of information (aerial photos, stand maps, topography maps, soils maps).