Forest Mapping: Definition, Method, and Benefits

Forest mapping is an essential source of information for forest resource assessment and a vital issue for forest inventories.

Today, new perspectives for forest mapping are automatically emerging along with the latest developments in data innovation and remote sensing techniques.

Automated remote sensing techniques are used to monitor forests in various locations. Thus, allowing humans to map much larger areas at a much more precise scale.

Forest Mapping Definition

Forests cover about 31% of the world’s land surface. Thus, forest ecosystems are the vital structure of life on Earth.

Forests shelter large numbers of terrestrial species, provide oxygen, protect watersheds, store carbon, prevent soil erosion, and mitigate climate change.

Mapping of forest cover and change is vital to understanding their effects on humans. An example is understanding the global carbon cycle and the contribution of forests to carbon sequestration.

This understanding will lead to actions to reduce emissions on deforestation and forest degradation. Some examples of this are tracking deforestation and improving mitigation systems.

Remote sensing data is an integral part of data collection for this metric.

Forest mapping is a monitoring activity related to the needs of the forest situation and condition.

Mapping the forests is essential because the resulting data sets are fundamental inputs for many users and applications, ranging from global environmental assessments of significant changes to local forest management planning.

The Purpose of Forest Mapping

Mapping and measuring forests allows humans to have many insights about forests. In addition, knowledge of trees and forest structure is vital to understanding, maintaining and conserving biodiversity.

In addition, comprehensive forest monitoring of forests is an essential asset in disaster management. Some institutions will be helped by mapping activities.

 These data and information from mapping activity will be processed and used by forestry stakeholders, such as forest managers, researchers, volunteers, and government agencies.

Several forestry and nature stakeholders need accurate land cover data, mapping data, and change data. In addition, changing conditions due to land clearing and increasing forest fragmentation make forest-related information necessary.

This information and data become the basis for analysis/consideration for forest inventories management, planning, and mapping. Such as the inventory of species ecosystems, forest productivity, reforestation, forest health, soil conservation, water resources, and nutrient cycles.

How to Forest Mapping

In the past, the mapping method was divided into 2 main stages. The first stage is to take aerial photos vertically to get a visual image.

The second stage is a field study. At this stage, the forest is divided into some work areas. Mapping activities in each work area will be carried out by field officers.

The conventional mapping method is expensive, and the scope of the work area is limited. However, since the 1970s, all that has changed.

 Satellite technology enables remote sensing activity. In addition, digital mapping from satellites provides the scale coverage of the forest area more extensively than conventional methods.

 Currently, the latest mapping technology uses what is called Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). LiDAR technology increases the speed of various types of mapping activities.

In simple terms, the LiDAR method is to shoot a laser beam at an object which is then reflected. The reflected light from the object is captured by the sensor.

The duration of the return of the laser beam is the basis for calculating the distance and various other elements of an object. The LiDAR method can be used for multiple types of activities. One of the most popular is forest mapping.

LiDAR is also known as laser scanning. There are many LiDAR methods currently in use. For example, there is an air LiDAR version, a ground version, and a mobile version.

The aerial version of LiDAR is mounted on a drone, UAV or helicopter. The drone then flies off and performs a laser scan. There are also land and mobile versions of LiDAR that rely on ground vehicles to move.

Forest Mapping Benefits

Remote sensing is the collection of information about an object without coming into direct contact with the thing. A famous example of remote sensing is an image of the Earth’s surface from satellite sensors in space.

Remote sensing is also used for mapping forest areas. This mapping activity can get a lot of data and information, such as the condition of forest ecosystems, fluctuations in plant productivity, the three-dimensional structure of the forest, biological distribution, and so on.

In the end, the results of mapping activities have many advantages. Here are some examples of the benefits of forest mapping:

  1. Provide information and data on the distribution of forest ecosystems
  2. The basis of government policies related to forests and surrounding areas
  3. Materials for analysis and activities of forestry stakeholders
  4. The basis for indigenous peoples around the woods to do advocacy
  5. The basis for knowing the condition of global forests for the benefit of fighting global warming

There are still many benefits of forest mapping that it is impossible to mention one by one here. Various types of information and data from monitoring forest areas are used in many research activities, commercials, government policies and many other things.

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