DTW map of a site in Uppsala area. Copyright: EFFORTE project

Different applications are used for almost everything nowadays, and they are making things easier in both working life and personal life. Forestry operations don’t make an exception. But sometimes simple solutions can be just as good as a fancy app, with too much data and calculations and thereby bigger risk of miscalculations.

When it comes to efficient forestry, it is little surprising but absolutely wonderful to hear that sustainable solutions actually also increase productivity. Let’s bust the myth: you can have both,  a forestry with big concern about the environment and great productivity at the same time, thanks to different map models (e.g. the depth to water map (DTW) used in Sweden) and sustainable methods.

Laser scanning made it easier than ever

Skogforsk started to develop this mapping idea around 2010 when, and got the DTW idea from Canada were it had been used for some time. The Canadian method was built on a topographic map but at the same time the Swedish government (Lantmäteriet) started to scan the whole country with the primary aim to get a better terrain model to complement the topographic map. The idea DTW map is actually very simple: laser scanning is used to get detailed and precise data about the terrain’s shape.

Technology nowadays is very developed: accuracy is approximately 2 meters instead of ten meters, which was the accuracy when topographical maps were used instead of laser scanning. When we know the shapes of the terrain, we can estimate how water flows through the landscape – where water usually accumulates in lower spots On the contrary higher spots are dryer and thereby has lower risk for damages. After modeling this, Skogforsk left the office to see if they were right. Measurements done in test area showed that it really worked pretty well, and only minor adjustments were needed.

Color-coding helps to plan and implement

The map shows wet areas in desired area with color scaling. The darker the blue color is on the map, the wetter it is in nature. You must remember that it is a model but blue areas should be seen as potential risk for soil and water damages and should be avoided during terrain transport as much as possible. All this information is very useful for all stages of forest operation: from the very beginning of planning process to very last steps of harvesting and planting new trees. Human decision will matter still, but a good map will certainly reduce the hours spent in the forest trying to estimate the wetness of the soil.

Steps towards the future

In present, the map model is implemented and used almost all over the Swedish forestry. The introduction of new maps and models together with a change of attitude within the forestry has speed up the work with sustainable methods. Employees in the forestry together with entrepreneurs and machine operators all agree that with better technique and methods as well as knowledge and changed attitudes it is possible to avoid damages to the environment.

The next step is to improve sustainable methods and information chain in all activities within the forestry as well in a national and an international aspect. EFFORTE project is a very good platform for that.