TECHNOLOGY ON THE JOB
Technology plays a leading role in various aspects of the forestry sector. 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 modern forests. Forest sustainability depends on global interdisciplinary cooperation in silvicultural techniques and continued research to meet projected needs while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As less public forest land is available for commercial use, 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.
As with human DNA, research teams are working to understand the genetic code of various species of trees. Forest genomics is rapidly shaping how we do sustainable, intensive forestry. It will help us farm trees with desired growth and wood quality characteristics, while protecting 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.
FOREST SIMULATION SOFTWARE
Computer science plays a leading role in the management of forest areas. Thus, several programs 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
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a computer based tool for mapping and analyzing geographic phenomenon that exist, and events that occur on Earth. Map making and geographic analysis are not new, but GIS performs these tasks faster and with more sophistication than do traditional manual methods. This gives land managers access to large amounts of data and information that was impossible to access before.
Information made available through tools like photogrammetry (aerial photographs and other imagery taken from airplanes and satellites) and remote sensing, help map large forest areas and help 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 to manage the forest land and its resources. GIS can also be used to model various management scenarios to optimize silvicultural goals.
GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS)
GPS is a primary tool for Geographic Information Systems. Foresters are able to more accurately 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 forests.
Using a handheld receiver, 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 centimeter.
Foresters can download data gathered from handheld GPS receivers into databases and modeling programs that marry it to other GIS information that can help in planning.
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 utilizes aerial photographs, satellite images, laser altimetry, and radar.
Advances in technology over the last century have allowed harvesting and processing techniques to keep up with demand for forest products while complying with economic and ecological demands.
The business of harvesting and processing trees was traditionally very labor intensive, dangerous, and often destructive to the sites. Processing logs required much manual labor, 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. Past practices often resulted in much timber waste and unnecessary labor costs.
The need to address these issues and to achieve higher productivity resulted in an explosion of high tech mechanized machinery to harvest and process trees in the forest.
Most harvesting operations are now mechanized, requiring the operator to have a higher degree of training and competency but providing a better degree of comfort, safety, and productivity. Modern equipment is now able to 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 optimization 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.
Foresters must be concerned with the long-term health of the forest and be able to execute management practices that adhere to environmental policy and social goals along with the economic. In order to stay competitive, the industry must do more with less, increasing the yield from forestland and individual trees.
Forestry today looks nothing like that of a century ago. Forest owners and foresters have access to a wealth of silvicultural information, which allows them to write forest management plans that plan for the long-term economic, social, and environmental needs of the stand. In addition, there are many tools to help them implement these plans that minimize environmental impacts while maintaining the integrity of forests in the long term.