What is GIS Analysis And What’s Its Role In Forest Management?

GIS stands for “Geographic Information System,” meaning a system meant to organize geographic information.  This type of software tool is used in many different industries, including insurance (to map historic risk data), supply chain management (to quickly assess how elements like delivery time relate to other data points, like item condition upon arrival), and even in urban planning (to assess neighborhoods, efficient locations for infrastructure, and key details).  In this blog, we’re going to discuss the role of GIS in forestry and forest management in detail so you can understand why and how we use this tool every day.

How Do Foresters Use GIS In Their Work?

Forestry requires complex analyses of conditions in targeted woodlands in order to determine how to best use available land, preserve important ecosystems, or plan timber harvests. Often, poor forest management leads to over-utilization, and tools like GIS aid in catching and correcting these mistakes. 

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a visual digital tool that allows the display and analysis of geographic and tabular data. In Forestry, we use GIS to visualize and interpret large, complex data sets representing your forest. It helps us take geographic specifics, such as your property boundary, and superimpose them over aerial photography of the land. Once the working area is well-defined in this way, we can add other data, such as representations of the number of trees measured on your property, the distribution of tree species, and more.

GIS improves forest management by helping forest managers and their clients to visually comprehend and analyze data like species diversity, size and age of trees, the density of timber stands, and both total and sectional volume. We can store and represent all these data with GIS in a geographically overlaid format which helps us generate custom forest management plans, determine the best time for a timber harvest and sale, and even assess timber stands for insect and disease threats.

GIS can even be used with historical data to more accurately predict the growth rates of different timber stands and species in different environments.  This allows for much more detailed and effective forest management plans that get great results.  The sooner we start mapping this important information, the sooner we can identify patterns and make pivotal decisions with confidence. 

What Did Foresters Do Before GIS?

In forestry, we’ve always mapped data geographically because of the nature of the industry.  Traditionally, this meant taking tedious notes on maps and aerial photos and compiling information manually for analysis.  This, naturally, resulted in less precision and more difficulty identifying useful patterns in collected data. 

Whereas before, we needed to make intuitive assessments of large quantities of poorly represented data, now we can make firmer, logical decisions based entirely upon the collected data we see reflected in our digital models.  Once we’ve made these decisions, we can then confidently measure the resulting changes and continue to make ever-better decisions.

What Opportunities Are Created Using GIS?

Geographic data from GIS can help to identify the best opportunities for introducing new, endangered, or highly profitable tree species. GIS technologies let us map out environmental details such as annual rainfall, temperature ranges, the duration & degree of seasonal weather changes, and so on.

This helps to quickly plan out rather complex forestry objectives, including changing the grown species, the best order and timing for timber harvests, and much more.  With so much disparate data represented in such an accessible way, it’s no surprise that foresters today have come to rely on GIS for all the most ambitious forest management projects and goals.

The Right Forester With the Right Tools

At Tall Pines Forest Management, we use the most powerful visualization tools available to make forest management plans that consider every detail.  Far from winging it, we develop detailed plans based on hard data that makes our plans more successful and valuable for our clients.  Reach out today to learn how we can help you manage your timberland more effectively.


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