Technology and forestry:
Technology plays a very important role in the management of the forestry business. A good knowledge of the application of technology and tools available are necessary. These tools are all aimed at making the management of the business more efficient and ensuring forests are more productive. Here are a few examples of how technology is used to better manage our forests.
Biotechnology is an important component in helping the forest industry increase productivity of commercial plantations. Forest sustainability depends on interdisciplinary cooperation in silviculture techniques and continued research to meet projected needs while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As less forest land is available for commercial use and no more planting permits are issued by DAFF, it becomes increasingly important to coax maximum productivity from existing commercial forests.
Biotechnology aids the forest industry in numerous areas. Application of enzyme technology in pulp and paper manufacture has demonstrated environmental advantages. Tree genetics offers the possibility to resolve the increased demands on forest resources through the development of trees more tolerant to diseases, pests, and chemicals, which have a detrimental impact on forest health.
Research teams are working to understand the genetic code of various species of trees. Forest genomics helps us farm trees with the desired growth and wood quality characteristics. It also helps protect our forests from pests and diseases through the development of tools for early detection, diagnosis, and control, allowing for more vigilant conservation and forest management. Much work is currently done on improving the genetics of Eucalyptus trees so they have good cold tolerance as well as growing efficiently with resources available.
Forest simulation software
As computer science can play a leading role in the management of forest areas, several programmes have been created to help foresters simulate forest growth depending on the type of intervention needed. These tools are used to determine the quantity of wood that can be cut in a given territory using different management strategies.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Geographic Information Systems is a compute- based tool for mapping and analysing geographic phenomenon, and events. . While map making and geographic analysis are not new, GIS performs these tasks faster and with more sophistication than traditional manual methods. This gives land managers access to large amounts of data and information that were impossible to access previously. .
Information made available through tools like photogrammetry (aerial photographs and other imagery taken from airplanes and satellites) and remote sensing, helps map large forest areas and also helps monitor and detect widespread trends of forest and land use. Computers are used extensively from the office to the field, for the storage, retrieval, and analysis of information required managing the forest land and its resources. GIS can also be used to model various management scenarios to optimise silviculture goals.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS is a primary tool for Geographical Information Systems and enablesforesters to plot location data (latitude, longitude, and altitude) for use in calculating timber volume, surveying timber plots and mapping roads and features in the forest. This data, combined with other geographic data, helps foresters to accurately manage modern plantations.
GPS takes advantage of a constellation of 24 satellites that orbit the earth as reference points to calculate position in three dimensions as well as in time. At any time, this constellation provides the user with between five and eight satellites visible from any point on the earth. GPS technology could accurately plot your position within a centimetre – depending on the hardware purchased.
Foresters can download data gathered from handheld GPS receivers into databases. With the use of modelling programmes, the additional data can be combined current GIS information, thus helping in planning work and rectifying map data and resultant areas, volumes and distances.
Remote sensing is a way to obtain information on forest biomass and stand conditions over large areas. The term ‘remote sensing’, sometimes known as photogrammetry, refers to measuring objects on earth by capturing inventory information from great distances. Remote sensing utilises aerial photographs, satellite images, laser altimetry, and radar to check field situations and then calculate additional data by projecting the checked data to unmeasured data eg tree sizes, drought, diseased timber, burnt areas, etc.
Traditionally, the business of harvesting and processing trees was very labour intensive, dangerous and often impacted negatively on sites. Processing logs required much manual labour, which resulted in many injuries. Road building and some harvesting techniques degraded the environment and caused damage to residual trees. Numerous roads were built to access harvesting sites, which contributed to erosion and watershed and habitat degradation. All these practices often resulted in much timber waste and unnecessary labour costs.
The need to address these issues and to achieve higher productivity resulted in an explosion of high tech mechanised machinery to harvest and process trees in the forest.
Most harvesting operations are now mechanised, requiring the operator to have a higher degree of training and competency but providing more comfort, safety, and productivity. Modern equipment can harvest and process trees to log lengths in one motion, saving processing time in the mills and helping keep organic matter on-site. Computer systems are integrated into harvesting systems, allowing optimisation of the harvest. The machines themselves are purpose-built and designed to be more versatile and to have lower impact on the site. Technology is the key to safety, productivity, reduced costs, and environmentally sensitive techniques.
In order to stay competitive, the industry must do more with less, increasing the yield from permit land and individual trees. Foresters need to focus on the long-term health of the plantation and manage it in line with environmental policy and social and economic goals. .
Today plantation owners and foresters have access to a wealth of silvicultural information which allows them to write plantation management plans that incorporate the long-term economic, social, and environmental needs of the stand. In implementing these plans, there are many tools that minimise environmental impacts while maintaining the integrity of forests in the long term.