Forest informatics is a multidisciplinary field of science that "harnesses the power of computational and information technologies to organize and analyze biological data from research collections, experiments, remote sensing, modeling, database searches and instrumentation and deliver them to users throughout the world." Computational and information management technologies used to support decision-making activities in the field of forest informatics include decision support systems, mathematical modeling software, statistical and algorithmic analysis tools, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and shared databases.
The concept of using computers for any type of forestry management may have first appeared in 1966 with researcher Daniel E. Chappelle's paper "Economic Model Building and Computers in Forestry Research," representing one of the first known efforts to examine the role of computers and informatics in the field of foresty. In the paper he noted how "a computer can be a fundamental tool in the research process, best understood as an integral part of the [economic] model building process" in forestry. A few years later, researcher J. G. Grevatt's paper "Management Information and Computers in Forestry" was published. In that paper, Grevatt discusses different dimensions of management information (i.e. operation, expenditure, location, and time), including the nature of management information and decisions, management information in forestry, and the management of an information system itself.
At the time of these articles, computers, databases, and geographic information systems were still in their infancy, and tools like the Global Positioning System were merely classified engineering design. Over the next 30 years, computers and relational database management systems became more prevalent and network data sharing became easier. These tools allowed scientists and researchers in forestry to describe, quantify, model, and predict forestry-related natural resources for the more effective management of forested ecosystems. As the number of shared forestry databases grows, even more powerful tools will be needed, including software systems that create a more natural interface between humans and databases.
- the optimization of harvest scheduling and crew assignment
- the computation of wildfire risk indices
- the assessment of forestry management guidelines
- the treatment of log bucking problems
- the development and optimization of mathematical algorithms for ecological modeling
Software specifically devoted to analyzing management decisions for forested ecosystems has been developed and used in several large scale planning projects. For example, the Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) system is spatial decision support system (SDSS) "designed to support natural resource and ecosystem management." Databases like the Global Forest Information Service also exist to help in "the dissemination and sharing of forest-related information and knowledge among the global forestry community."
Open-source software solutions have also become more accepted, as is seen in the expansion of forestry and other ecological extensions for statistical tools like R and in the development of the Open Foris software tool set.
- Ecosystem Management Decision Support system (EMDS)
- Global Forest Information Service (GFIS)
- Open Foris
This article reuses a few elements from the Wikipedia article.
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- "About GFIS". Global Forest Information Service. http://www.gfis.net/gfis/en/en/background/. Retrieved 04 June 2014.
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- "Software Tools - Open Foris". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 3 April 2014. http://www.fao.org/forestry/fma/openforis/en/. Retrieved 04 June 2014.