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Forest Management Information System (FMIS): An integrated approach to forest management

An integrated approach to forest management

E. W. Ted Robak
Professor of Forest Operations
Management, Faculty of Forestry and Environment Management, University of New Brunwick, Canada.

Bhaskara R. Murty
Consultant Siemens Information Systems Ltd., Chennai
Email: [email protected]

 

The FMIS can be used for strategic, tactical and operational planning and implementation, and operational control in and across administrative units and levels of the organisational hierarchy.

The Forest Management Information System (FMIS) is envisaged as an integrated system which will be used to support the planning, implementation and monitoring of multi-objective forest management activities. The FMIS can be used for strategic, tactical and operational planning and implementation, and operational control in and across administrative units and levels of the organizational hierarchy. Besides the databases and models required to support decision-making in the many programs of the Department, the FMIS also has the ability to maintain current forest inventories and generate maps of spatially-oriented data ( e.g. attributes of entities depicted on a map, such as population of a village, whose location can be fixed on a map). The components of the FMIS, which will necessarily be linked, are a Monitoring Information System (MIS), a Geographic Information System (GIS), and an Image Processing System.

Modern Forest Management Principles
Erdle and Sullivan, among many others, suggest that it is time to apply a “new paradigm” in forest management:

  • the decision-making process should be opened up to allow increased public participation;
  • the set of forest values receiving explicit consideration in management should be expanded to include biological diversity, wildlife habitats, and ecological health among others:
  • the focus of management should change from stand and forest to ecosystem and landscape; and
  • our perception of the forest should change from a human and economic orientation to an environmental and ecosystem one.

Modern, responsible forest management focuses on ensuring the sustainability of forest resources, ecosystems, and the social and economic structures that rely on them. It is no longer considered acceptable for strategic, tactical and operational planning to be undertaken in isolation. All levels of planning must be linked over all time horizons, and plans must be tied to monitoring systems. Decisions should be based on what is best overall for the organisation.

The principles of integration are reflected in the design of an Integrated Forest Management System (Fig.1).


Fig 1: FMIS Components
Planning Process in the context of Indian Forest Management
Goals of Indian Forestry – Maintaining environmental stability and conserving the natural heritage. Checking soil erosion, denudation, desertification. Increasing forest cover & the productivity of the nation’s forests. Meeting the forest-based needs of rural and tribal populations. Encouraging efficient utilization of forest products and maximizing substitution of fuel wood. Involving citizens in the achievement of these goals.There is no strict definition of what constitutes an IFMS, and perhaps no consensus, as to how one should be designed and developed. However, a practical integrated system should probably include the following elements: forest inventory data and models; growth and yield data and models; other silvicultural , biological and physical data; harvest scheduling and forest management planning models; other industrial forecasting and strategic planning data and models; operational analysis, planning and scheduling data and models; compatible accounting (or cost and production tracking) systems and capital budgeting procedures.

Forest Monitoring –It is necessary to be able to determine the status of the forest estate (its biological and physical elements, locations and boundaries) at regular intervals, and to track the dynamic nature of the forest based upon these periodic audits. In general, two major technologies are used for data gathering (remote sensing and field surveys using GPS), while GIS and specially designed MIS are required to maintain this data and translate it into useful information.

Biological / Physical Modeling-Once data concerning the forest has been gathered , techniques must be used to estimate current timber and non-timber values of the forest (standing timber volumes, wildlife numbers, fodder, etc.) and to describe the dynamic nature of the forest and its values (timber growth and yield over time, wildlife dynamics, erosion rates, etc.) as a result of natural processes and human actions.

Integrated Forest Planning – Besides information concerning the forest and its dynamic nature, managers must plan the actions that are required to be undertaken in order to achieve the goals of the Forest Service. An important consideration is the fact that, for the foreseeable future, no one monolithic model will be able to produce a realistic, implementable, optimal solution for all planning levels (strategic, tactical and operational) in one iteration. Instead, given the fact that a multitude of objectives and constraints must be analyzed over a number of levels, across a number of functional divisions and over several time horizons, an iterative, trade-off approach should be considered as most appropriate.

Forest Operations Monitoring –
The monitoring of production parameters (timber and non-timber forest production; social costs, benefits and infrastructure requirements; economic costs; revenues; human and non-human resource requirements) is essential to ensure that plans are being properly implemented, that assumptions made in the planning process are valid, and that control measures or re-planning are not required.

The functional areas addressed by the FMIS are detailed in Fig. 2


Fig 2: Functional areas addressed by the FMIS

Integrated Forestry (or Plantation) Management System: It has been developed to provide decision support for integrated long, medium and short-term forest management. The various components of our IFMS are linked in such a way that managers are able to produce the set of plans that are best overall (across all relevant time horizons and organizational divisions), then control activities to ensure that the plan is properly implemented. The standard components of our IFMS include:

  • The Forest Inventory System (FIS) stores and processes forestry information and produces estimates of current and projected volume and value estimates of timber and non-timber products.The Forest Inventory System has been developed to provide managers with up-to-date information about their forest resources based upon forest surveys.
  • Strategic Planning Module formulates the optimum long-term forest management strategy and reports the optimum mix and schedule of activities, while respecting constraints such as wood flows, capital, manpower, and environmental considerations.
  • The Forest Maximizer, is an optimization-based package for the long-term, strategic planning of forests and forest estates. It provides managers with the optimal nature, amount and timing of major forest management activities over the life of the analysis (usually incorporating one or more forest rotations).
  • Tactical Planning Module (TOPM) is an optimization-based decision support system for developing optimum multi-year, multi-season forest operating plans to produce the lowest costs or highest profits over the entire range of forest activities.
  • The Forest Operations Planning Decision Support System (DSS) is designed to help managers create effective and efficient operating plans, budgets and schedules.
  • Cost Tracking System allows managers to monitor actual operations to ensure that costs, production and resource usage are in line with the plan produced by the Operational Planning Module.

IFMS:

  • Enables integrated planning across multiple planning levels, departments, and time horizons.
  • Provides decision support environment for major decisions across multiple levels of management.
  • Provides the ability to plan, control, document and justify sustainable forest management actions.
  • Takes into account economic, environmental and social factors.
  • Can be linked to GIS, accounting systems and other MIS.

Conclusion
The critical issues that need to be addressed while implementing an FMIS are:

 

  • Linking the planning at all levels ( strategic, tactical and operational), and providing facilities to reflect the changes in the actual situations and their implications for the plans
  • Providing a framework for the integration of GIS, Remote Sensing and GPS to resolve the problem of non-availability of the latest maps or spatial information
  • Helping managers / decision makers to effectively achieve the social, environmental and economic objectives of the Forest Department’s Plan in a multi -objective decision – making environment.
  • Planning for and ensuring the availability of trained people during the entire life cycle of the FMIS.(Imparting training to the FD staff can take 5 to 8 years).
  • Being aware and sensitive to the fact that the complete implementation of all aspects of an integrated FMIS can span around 10 to 15 years, depending on the size of a Forest Department (Resource allocation for people, equipment, data creation and its periodic updation and validation, training, maintenance and repair, upgrades and software support should take cognizance of such a time horizon).