Saksham Bhutani , Marketing Head at Indshine
April 27, 2020
Recently, drones have gained popularity in diverse fields, from agriculture to delivery to defence. Forestry is another area where drone application is bringing stupendous results leading to solid decisions in the favour of flora and fauna. Drone technology is becoming increasingly popular in forestry mainly due to the high-resolution data that can be collected flexibly in a short time and at a relatively low price.
Due to the benefits of reduced costs, flexibility in time and space, high accuracy of data and the advantage of no human risks, Drones are getting largely used in forest mapping, forest management planning, canopy height model creation or mapping forest gaps.
Drones aid in finding out about the number of trees, wildlife, and villages in the forest. Information about the total tree count in a forest is a very important dataset for forest management. Knowing the precise number of trees at different points in time ensures the stable growth of the forest. Tree count enables the forest officers to gauge forest health and identify problems at the right time. Stunted growth or unnatural reduction in a number of trees can help them discover issues like disease or encroachment quickly. A quicker discovery of the problem leads to timely action and saving on cost and loss of natural wealth. Aerial imagery captured by drones creates a complete, detailed picture of the forest, providing comprehensive insights and analysis.
1. Forest Inventory – Prioritizing timber harvesting units by referring to age class and forest type to better measure timber acreage and average estimates.
2. Forest Fires – Plotting out forest fires
3. Deforestation – Gauging deforestation using land cover change in time.
4. Reforestation – Recharging forests through tree planting planning on a map.
5. Forest Heights – Measuring tree heights with altimetry and understanding the biodiversity of parks
6. Cut Lines – Finding cut lines in ortho imagery to find easy access.
7. Illegal Logging – Identify potential illegal activity (Forest Watch)
8. Vegetation Potential – Analyzing tree growth & distribution of vegetation with west/east-facing and aspect data.
9. Leaf Area Index – Summing the total area of leaves per ground unit.
10. Age of Trees – Inventorying the XY position and rings of trees in a database to understand its age.
11. Forest Disease – Mapping the impact of how forest infestations on forests and the economy.
12. Potential Natural Vegetation (PNV) - Measuring vegetation that would be expected given environmental constraints (climate, geomorphology, geology) without human intervention or a hazard event.
The use of Drone technology for forest inspection is gaining popularity in India as well. With various benefits like reduced costs, time saving and accuracy of data, drones are becoming a 'go to' tool for forest management professionals in India. Using Drones, the Indian officials are able to combat this issue to a large extent. Wildlife protection is also a huge case of concern for forest management officials in India and in this area as well Drones are proving extremely useful by timely monitoring and discovery of unnatural reductions in numbers mainly due to poaching.
In forest departments, hierarchy starts from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and ends at Forest Watcher. For every forest, a Forest Officer is allocated by the Centre who reports to the Principal Chief Conservator who is an IAS officer. He reports to the CM. And an IFS officer reports to the IAS officer. And several local authorities report to the IFS officer who help in the management and the local level.
For effective management of the forest area and regulate wildlife, forest land and trees it is necessary to keep everyone in the loop. Every single person in the hierarchy must understand the importance of highly accurate data obtained through Drones and thus participate in the process wholeheartedly. Forest officers, guards and watchers are usually the first to detect discrepancies in forests and their inputs remain valuable for forest management.
Image Credits : [New Indian Express](https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2018/jul/08/112-acres-of-land-encroached-by-government-high-court-1840120.html)
Encroachment of forest land for cultivation and other purposes is a huge cause of concern in India. The skewed ratio between the rising population and available land for human inhabitation is a leading cause of distress among people and consequent land encroachment. Even though strict regulations are at place, the task of controlling the menace is humongous. The authorities feel the constant pressure of monitoring the boundaries, especially in places where the land prices are very high.
National Parks are more susceptible to encroachment because of their aversion towards putting walls & fences to give the wildlife a free rein. Even if fencing is done correctly in some National Parks, people break in and capture forest land by cutting down trees. This is a huge risk to biodiversity and wildlife.
What’s worse is that most of the times it becomes difficult for the officials to understand that the land has been encroached because there are no clear-cut boundaries. Building a wall is not preferred because it is expensive. Such encroachment issues prevail highly in Mumbai because the land prices are high there.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one forest area in Mumbai which is facing the brunt of encroachment. The land of the park gets periodically encroached by the villagers staying nearby. The perimeter of the Park is 108 km and the area is 30 sq. km. It includes 5 Villages.
The villagers, periodically, cut down a few trees and acquire the land without the officials realizing it. This had become a huge cause of concern for the forest department officials.
Periodic images captured by drones, which could map the villages, the boundaries, number of trees could largely help the officials in managing the encroachment issue. Drone data could help them identify discrepancies quickly and take action. The forest department decided to have the images in every 3 months. These images could serve as evidence of encroachment which was earlier difficult to prove. Due to lack of concrete evidence, many a times, even if an encroachment gets detected, action cannot be taken. Drone imagery can resolve this problem.
Such intervention could bring unimaginable precision in forest management. Though at a nascent stage, if drone-based surveillance becomes a regular phenomenon in forestry, then risks to our flora and fauna will be largely reduced.
Here's an interactive drone maps of SGNP overlayed with land boundary. For more open GIS datasets refer to Indshine project library.
Contributors : Deepali Joshi, Shimonti Paul, Shashank Tewari
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