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Managing forests is becoming an increasingly complex and demanding challenge to forest managers, their skills, resources and time. Government and non-governmental bodies, commercial enterprises and forest-dwelling communities have different perceptions and perspectives about the conservation and sustainable use of forests. This is why decisions about resource use and business opportunities often lead to a conflict of interests and values that require compromises to be made over the type and intensity of forest management.
With GIS, foresters can view and analyse the forest as an integrated ecosystem and manage it responsibly for a variety of functional uses. It is a cost-efficient and powerful tool for improved resource analysis, strategic management planning and decision making for all parties involved in forest resource management.

Rainfall map
In technical terms, a Geographic Information System (GIS) can be described as a computer-based system for the manipulation and analysis of spatial information with an automated link between attribute data and their location. It consists of computer hardware, and software for entering, storing, transforming, measuring, combining, retrieving, displaying and performing mathematical operations on digitised thematic data, such as, e.g. forest types, conservation areas, timber stocking, river network, soils and terrain, forest road infrastructure and traditional land use areas These and many other data layers can be combined through overlays, thus creating new data layers with more comprehensive information.

The key components of a GIS can be divided into a number of discrete technical processes:

  • data capture and input into the system
  • data management
  • data processing
  • analysis and modelling
  • data output

The data to be used for processing and analysis may originate from a variety of sources: forest resource statistics, socio-economic assessments, actual field surveys or remotely sensed data from aerial or satellite imagery. Data outputs are frequently in map form and often combined with area, perimeter, density and distance calculations or complete statistics for desired parameters. Naturally, the quality and accuracy of outputs resulting from such analysis depends strongly on the accuracy and quality of captured data:

  • areas to be reserved for conservation of biodiversity, scientific use or recreation
  • soil types, nutrient status, compaction and erosion risk
  • prescribed harvesting systems for prevailing site conditions
  • forest vegetation and timber stocking situation
  • change of forest land use over time
  • harvest progress and projected harvesting areas
  • timber volume flows by coupes, harvesting units, or compartments
  • traditional land use areas and community forests
  • socio-economic conditions and development needs for forest-dwelling communities
  • damaged forest areas requiring forest rehabilitation or reforestation
  • road infrastructure analysis, by road type, maintenance status and road density
  • integrated Forest Zoning Maps showing the allocation of specific forest functions for specific areas, e.g. conservation areas, timber production areas and areas reserved for community use (generated from selected thematic layers)
  • monitoring and compliance of forest operations with pre-defined management standards

In an advanced stage of development, a Geographic Information System becomes an integrated element of an overall Forest Management Information System (FMIS).

ifmc provides a wealth of hands-on experience in designing field data collection, developing sustainable management strategies, data processing and analysis, as well as in production of outputs.
With such backbone knowledge at hand, ifmc offers solution oriented and user-friendly ICT and GIS applications for the benefit of rational forest management planning, and cost efficient use of complex resource data.