Cutting edge technology assists forest management

3 September 2017

Greater protection for waterways and more accurate timber volume estimates are some of the benefits stemming from a six-month project to capture sophisticated LiDAR data across all state-owned plantations in Tumut and Tumbarumba.

Snowy Region Planning Manager Duncan Watt said the data generated from the project would improve both environmental management and wood flow to local mills during timber harvesting across the region.

“LiDAR data is captured using an incredibly accurate sensor mounted in an aeroplane that emits and receives millions of laser pulses across the landscape. Every time a laser pulse strikes an object, it returns a signal to the sensor that can then accurately record the three-dimensional location of that object,” Mr Watt said.

“The laser pulses can even penetrate through the tree canopy and record the profile of the forest floor. As a result, we can now create a three-dimensional picture of the forest canopy, the forest floor and the individual trees standing in the forest.”

“LiDAR data is much more accurate than the maps we currently use to identify creeks, rivers and ground slope in our operations – some of which are up to 50 years old – and means we can now pinpoint exactly where drainage systems are and precisely how steep the ground is”.

“Ground slope has a strong influence on how we manage each section of forest, particularly in steeper areas where even a small slope variation can cause us to change the way we work to ensure waterways are protected from erosion, so this data will really enhance environmental protection”. “Excitingly, we can now also accurately estimate the number and height of individual trees standing in the forest instead of relying on estimates drawn from small sample plots, which means we have a clear idea of how much timber is available in each section of forest before we harvest”.

“This will bring huge benefits to local industry more broadly, as we’ll now be able to let processors know what volume of which products will be coming out of each harvesting operation and ensure we maintain a consistent supply of the timber and wood products the local industry relies on.”

Photo: Forestry Corporation’s Jeff Matthews using a tree height measuring tool (Vertex) in a 13 year old plantation near Tumut

Source: Forestry Corporation of NSW