SGRC Forestry Projects

As Selkirk College began in abandoned buildings at Celgar, a pulp and paper mill in Castlegar, BC, it seems natural that many of the SGRC's applied research and innovation projects have been focused on geomatics in the forest sector.   Forestry companies and local BC government forest managers helped to develop the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant that founded the SGRC, and once the Centre was established one of our first projects was providing GIS support to the Kootenay Spatial Data Partnership (KSDP), comprised of forest harvest license holders and forest managers. 

The goal of the KSDP was to bring together stakeholders to address the discrepancies and data gaps that existed at that time (2003-4).  For instance, different datasets were provided to licensees from different forest offices across the region.    The SGRC in partnership with Peter Lewis, Forest Business Analyst for the BC government, developed a website at kootenayspatial.ca to serve as a one-stop portal for all data required for forest harvest planning in the Kootenays.   The website had a table listing all data required in each district within the region, with links to downloadable data hosted by the SGRC.  An interactive map using Moximedia's IMF and ArcIMS was linked to the site and displayed all these authoritative layers as well.   This project predated the great work that the BC government has since done to create DataBC, the provincial data warehouse, and the data discovery service, but over time as those initiatives came on line and evolved, the kootenayspatial site replaced links to data stored on SGRC servers with links to discovery service metadata records.

Kootenay Spatial home page circa 2009, courtesy of the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine.

The KSDP also supported the development of a reporting suite that licensees could use to prepare reports as required by the Kootenay Higher Level Plan Order (known as HLPO).   This tool, the HLPO Reporting Suite, was originally developed as a desktop application by Ron Fretwell of RHF systems.   Later, Ron and Peter Lewis worked with the SGRC to redevelop the application as a web app linked to Oracle tables.  The SGRC developed a web-based geoprocessing application, probably one of the first implemented in the province, called the HLPO Update Tool that allowed users to upload proposed cut-blocks and model and report the impacts on higher level plan biodiversity and ungulate winter range objectives.

In 2012, the SGRC had decided to move away from expensive commercial Oracle relational database software to open source PostgreSQL databases.  One of our last major Oracle dependencies to migrate was the HLPO reporting suite and update tool.  With funding from the provincial and federal governments we were able to successfully complete the move in 2013.    Now www.kootenayspatial.ca points just to the reporting tool as DataBC made other components of the site redundant.

www.kootenayspatial.ca today:  the reporting suite remains an important tool for the Kootenay forest industry.

The KSDP group and the update tool lead to the development of an SGRC forest sector grant in Forest Carbon Management.   In 2011, with BC leading the country with a progressive carbon tax, the forest industry became interested in commercializing forest carbon within the provincial carbon credit system.   The SGRC submitted a succesful NSERC grant application that allowed us to work with many of the same licensees involved with the KSDP to explore forest carbon.  We hosted a workshop, collected data around the college, supported a bachelor thesis, and developed a website with a geoprocessing tool that could calculate biomass for an area of interest (http://fcm.sgrc.selkirk.ca/ - the biomass & species tool is currently offline).

As well as working with the multi-stakeholder group. the SGRC has collaborated with individual researchers, including BC Forest's Dr Mike Curran.   Mike was involved with the Long Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) project and managed several field sample sites close to Selkirk.  Over 10 years, students at the college helped Mike measure tree growth in these field plots.   In 2012, the SGRC used very high resolution aerial imagery to develop and test methods to estimate biomass.   This became part of the SGRC's Dr Kongwen (Frank) Zhang's PhD thesis dissertation (see http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6721202).

Today, as well as continuing to build the HLPO application, we are working with Valhalla Software Consultants, a small consultancy based in Nelson, BC, to spatialize their BOS Forestry application.    SGRC has been using CANARIE's cloud computing facilty, DAIR, to develop and share ideas with the team at Valhalla.   You can read about this ground-breaking work on the CANARIE news site here .

SGRC staff (l-r Suzanne Ector, Suzanne Fordyce, Justin Robinson, Ian Parfitt) meet with BOS Forestry's Grant Sutherland

The challenges the forest industry faces working over large, complex landbases where many values must be managed simultaneously creates many great R&D opportunities for a geospatial research unit like the SGRC.  Someone once said that ecological forestry is not rocket science -  its a lot more complicated than that!  Over the last decade and a half the SGRC has remained on the leading edge of forest geomatics.   As we enter the age of UAVs,  wide adoption of LiDAR and high resolution imagery for forest planning and mobile data collection in the field, we  expect our portfolio of forest projects to grow to become almost as diverse as the great forests of our region.