Tree Count - Precision Forestry

Counting Trees

Counting the number of trees in a compartment or specific area within a forest is an integral act in forestry management and research. Tree counts help to establish an accurate forest inventory which  provides valuable information about species composition, density, age structure, and overall forest health.

Date Posted:

June 14, 2023

The importance of counting your compartments tree’s

Counting the number of trees in a compartment or specific area within a forest is an integral act in forestry management and research. Tree counts help to establish an accurate forest inventory which  provides valuable information about species composition, density, age structure, and overall forest health.

This data is crucial for planning forest management activities, estimating timber volume, and assessing potential harvest yields. Counting trees allows for the monitoring of tree growth rates and stand dynamics over time. It helps foresters track changes in species composition, evaluate growth patterns, and make informed decisions regarding thinning, regeneration, and other silvicultural practices.

A forest manager is able to assess the success of regeneration efforts by monitoring seedling establishment, survival rates, and the growth of new tree cohorts. These monitoring efforts contribute to evaluating forest biodiversity by identifying and counting different tree species, providing insights into species richness, composition, and distribution.

Tree counts are incredibly valuable for environmental monitoring, monitoring the impact of disturbances like wildfires, insect outbreaks, or diseases, and evaluating forest recovery and ecological resilience. The information gathered is used in research and modeling, supporting studies on forest dynamics, carbon sequestration, climate change impacts, and ecosystem functioning.

Accurate tree counts contribute to reliable research findings and the development of predictive models. But how is it done with the GFP? Let’s start with the planting of compartments and what compartments are.

GFP Post Count your tree 3.2 v2

What are tree compartments?

Compartments are designated areas within a forest that are managed separately. Think of them as individual sections within the larger forest. These compartments are defined based on factors like size, ecological characteristics, and management goals. They play a vital role in planning and executing tree planting efforts.

Forestry professionals assess the forest area and gather data on tree species, density, and age through a forest inventory. This information helps them create a forest management plan, which includes marking out compartments on a forest map. The boundaries of these compartments can be based on natural features or artificially established firebreaks and roads. The size and shape of compartments may vary depending on local practices and objectives.

Once the compartments are designated, the tree planting strategy is tailored to the specific goals of each compartment. Factors like soil conditions, climate, desired forest structure, and tree species are considered. For example, some compartments may be designated for growing a single type of tree, while others may aim for a mix of species or natural regeneration.

With a plan in place, trees are then planted within these designated compartments. This involves activities like clearing vegetation, preparing the site, selecting seedlings, and using appropriate planting techniques. Forestry professionals ensure that the trees are planted according to the specifications set for each compartment.

After the initial planting, ongoing management activities take place within each compartment. These include weed control, thinning, and pest management. Regular monitoring helps evaluate the success of the tree planting efforts and guides future management decisions.

Canopy Closure

When it comes to monitoring tree counts, canopy closure plays a significant role in how we approach it. Let’s break it down:

In forests with a dense canopy closure, it becomes quite tricky to spot and count individual trees, whether you’re on the ground or using remote sensing methods. The thick foliage blocks the line of sight, making it hard to visually identify and tally up the trees. As a result, there’s a risk of underestimating the actual number of trees.

Another challenge is sampling bias. When we use sampling techniques to estimate tree counts, a dense canopy can introduce bias into our results. If our sample plots or transects are randomly or systematically placed, they might not adequately represent areas with different canopy closure. This can lead to skewed estimates since the sampled areas may not be truly representative of the entire forest.

Overlapping crowns add another layer of complexity. In forests with high canopy closure, the crowns of neighboring trees often overlap. This makes it tough to distinguish individual trees and accurately count them. Sometimes, we might end up counting multiple trees as one or vice versa, leading to inaccuracies in our tree count estimates.

Additionally, dense canopy closure can suppress the growth of understory vegetation, including smaller trees. These smaller trees can get overshadowed and suppressed by the dominant canopy trees, making them less visible and more likely to be missed during tree count monitoring efforts.

GFP Post Count your trees 4.2

The audit of compartments is important for decision makers to gather data on how many trees are in their compartments as well as the stems per hectare for each compartment. The benefits of the GFP allows one to track the number of planted trees in all young compartments up until canopy closure and thus stems per hectare for these compartments. If any die off occurs between counts this is also detected, and imagery is available as either historical imagery or current (newly collected imagery – another available module). With insight provided via identification and location for each tree including the average health of each tree and compartment at the time of image capture. With even the alignment of tree planting and row spacing detected from the satellite imagery available.

The GFP is designed to be of usefulness throughout the lifecycle of a plantation, from planning to planting. Ongoing forestry monitoring modules are useful tools indeed, but what happens in the case of unwanted events such as fire or extreme weather?

The “Post Fire Analysis” module allows users to track the extent of the fires damage through high quality satellite before and after comparisons, which will showcase the damage extent and importantly, the health of plantation sectors that have been damaged due to the heat that potentially could showcase signs only much later to the naked eye.

This module provides valuable information regarding various aspects. Firstly, it reveals the number of trees planted in all young compartments until the point of canopy closure, allowing us to determine the density of stems per hectare in these compartments. It also has the capability to detect any instances of tree mortality that may have occurred between counts. Secondly, it offers access to both historical and current imagery, enabling us to compare and analyze changes over time. Thirdly, it assigns a unique identification and precise location to each individual tree, facilitating accurate tracking and management. Furthermore, it provides insights into the average health status of both individual trees and the compartments as a whole at the time the imagery was captured. Lastly, it utilizes the imagery to identify and assess the alignment and spacing of tree planting rows, aiding in the evaluation of planting techniques.

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