It’s no secret that a new era of digital technology and intelligent business management has arrived. Forests play a key role in the global economy, therefore the issue of careful and effective forest management is especially relevant nowadays. In the digital era, production processes are being transferred to a digital environment in order to make the business transparent and tangible.
Until recently, digitalization in the forestry industry was perceived as a fashionable trend rather than an effective tool for economic development. However, the experience of companies that have taken this path shows that IT tools can be successfully used both for assessing available forest resources data and planning their rational use.
The introduction of sustainable forestry is impossible without reliable, high-quality access to all information about forests. In recent years, great progress in this area has occurred, but still, most of the data remain closed or difficult to access.
Digital technologies including modern forestry software, LiDar, and drones can help not only improve the quality of internal planning and control over forest management at the enterprise or regulatory authority level but also become a driver of the transition to sustainable forestry. Today’s sensing technologies and other innovations have already revolutionized many spheres, including agriculture, and have proved their ability to do the same for forestry as well.
Technologies for Forestry and Ecology
Let’s go through the key tech innovations that already significantly improve the way we interact with forests today.
Using drones in forestry allows for saving money, time and effort. That is thanks to a variety of their abilities. Here is what modern drones are capable of:
- Shooting large areas in high resolution with the subsequent study of specific areas and individual trees
- Searching for fires in the early stages using a thermal imager
- Video filming for detecting illegal deforestation, human-induced fires, and other violations
- Multispectral imaging for plant health control, detection of insect pests infestations
- Forest land mapping, control of site boundaries, and forest development
- Observation of rare animals, population counting
- Significantly faster and effective automatic tree planting, especially in remote areas
The main benefits of drones for forestry include:
- Costs-saving: lower aircraft cost, lower operating costs, and no expensive maintenance
- Work without expanding the staff, the ability to train your own employees and solve complex problems with the help of one UAV operator
- Simplicity and efficiency: takeoff at any geographic point without using an airfield or landing site and simplified legislative regulation of flights
- Accuracy of aerial photography: due to the use of satellite navigation systems, maps created with a drone may have the highest possible accuracy. Flying at extreme altitudes increases the detail and quality of such images.
Despite all the difficulties with the development and safety testing, scientists are confident that in the future, humanity cannot do without transgenic plants and products. We will be able to prevent hunger or mass crop failure, as well as minimize harm to the environment: GMO plants can be watered less often and cultivated without soil tillage. This will not only save water but also reduce the greenhouse effect by reducing the thermal radiation of arable land. In addition, fewer agricultural machinery in the fields will help control carbon dioxide emissions.
Here are some examples of what genetic engineering is capable of:
- Breeding plants that bear fruit more often require minimal cultivation and even absorb CO2. This would help to significantly reduce the greenhouse effect and improve the environmental situation around the world
- Genetically modified animals grow faster and are more resistant to all common infections. This will help reduce the cost of breeding and feeding them, as well as protect us from new epidemics
All of this means less land needed for food and animal feed production, which is among the biggest causes of deforestation. Hence, GMO technology can be of great value for forest stands preservation and the forestry industry overall.
Trees Growth in Arid Regions
It’s no secret that the best places for healthy vegetation development, hence tree growth, are those with rich ecological diversity, high rainfall, and fertile land. Unfortunately, such places are being seriously depleted and threatened by unsustainable land use due to human development and encroachment.
A solution to this issue would be to use arid and semi-arid regions for tree growth by using new innovations in technology. Modern companies have already come up with systems where trees can be grown with minimum water required.
Remote sensing in forestry is especially useful when it comes to monitoring remote areas, rugged terrains, and locations where human resources are hard to train and organize. It can be used to track newly planted trees, collect data from the region, and plan smart steps to take for ensuring forest development and survival.
Remote sensing offers data on the number of trees, canopy density, types and numbers of fauna, and much more. This information significantly helps researchers to plan and manage conservation actions.
Special software designed for forest and environment preservation is of great value for improving modern forestry. They offer data in almost real-time, including the existing laws, policies, and the effects of corporate actions, which is also available to regular people. This means more aware citizens, resulting in higher government involvement in creating real change in forest management.
New tech innovations offer huge opportunities in terms of forest fires management. There are already developed firefighting systems that can help front-line firefighters not only to detect and track forest fires but also to identify the fires that will be the most significant. However, there is a need to support local solutions that can help communities build resilience when it comes to future fires.
Another important factor in smarter firefighting management is Infrastructure improvements such as grid updates to help reduce the number of fires sparked by power lines. All this can also be detected and monitored via modern tech solutions developed specifically for environment and forest preservation purposes.
Among the most important tech innovations in modern forestry are mechanized harvesting and the use of big data in the forest products industry. A study by USDA scientists evaluates many parameters regarding such tech use, including the factors that impact machine performance the most when harvesting. This results in smarter forest management and sustainable forest use overall.