Chapter 5

The Role of GIS and LIDAR as Tools for Sustainable Forest Management

Ruben Fernandez de Villaran San Juan and Juan Manuel Domingo-Santos


Regarding activities related to sustainable forests management, the spatial location of information is a very important factor, which requires tools capable of acquiring this data and handling them in a georeferenced format. For this reason, forest management has rapidly incorporated geospatial tools offered by new information technologies. Two important technologies used are Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the remote sensing technology known as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).Forestry applications of these technologies can be grouped into two broad categories: (i) Inventory and monitoring of natural resources; and (ii) Analysis and modeling of resources to facilitate sustainable planning and management. The first category is designed to measure the surface area, quantity, composition and condition of forest and natural resources of a management area. Thus, foresters use the LIDAR technology for acquiring digital information on the structure of the forest and the terrain; this information, properly processed with a GIS, helps analysts in assessing the health of the forest, calculating and classifying forest biomass, classifying land, or identifying soil drainage patterns, among other things. In the second category, once the above mentioned information has been mapped in a GIS environment, it is accessible to managers and researchers who can analyze and create models that optimize the decision-making on the resources under management, facilitating and optimizing forest planning. Therefore, wood felling can be scheduled in a sustainable way, as well as the design of firefighting infrastructures or the optimization of any other decisions related to use of resources or the protection of wildlife. This chapter aims to make the reader familiar with some variables of sustainable forest management, and with their integration into a GIS environment, as well as to introduce the basics of LIDAR technology and its powerful capabilities to acquire useful information for forest managers and planners.

Total Pages: 124-148 (25)

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