The Biometrics and Information Technology Department is a specialised department dealing with forest inventories, remote sensing and modelling. In these areas, it develops methodological bases and procedures, conducts analyses, provides data and offers advice and technical support. As a cross-sectoral department, it advises other departments on statistics, provides central geographic information system services, and is responsible for the information technology infrastructure of the FVA.
Forest inventories carried out on a sample basis are an efficient means of providing reliable information on forest condition and its dynamics of change. Since the mid-1980s, the department has been developing inventory procedures, including the necessary evaluation programmes, and continuously adapting them to new requirements in coordination with the responsible departments of the State Forestry Administration and the state forestry company ForstBW.
In addition to large-scale inventories such as the Federal Forest Inventory, forest enterprise inventories are an essential component of forest planning at forest enterprise level, helping ensure sustainable management and use. In Baden-Württemberg, sample inventories have provided the basic data for the recording of the condition of nature within the framework of the forest management plan since the 1990s. In the state forest enterprises, ongoing inventories are carried out as standard every 10 years. This makes it possible to determine the growth increment and utilisation exactly, as a basis for specifying a sustainable timber harvest (annual felling volume). In municipal forest enterprises, which are often smaller, more cost-effective temporary inventories are carried out as part of the forest management plan.
A recent development in the evaluation of terrestrial sample inventories is the possibility of including remote sensing data. Corresponding evaluation procedures for small area estimates are being designed that can improve the regional evaluations of the Federal Forest Inventory for smaller spatial units such as districts or forest districts. Studies are currently also being carried out on inventories at the state forest enterprise level on how to improve the estimation of the wood supply for smaller spatial units (districts, stands) by combining parameters from remote sensing, e.g. digital stand height models, with sampling data.
The need for large-scale monitoring of the forest condition and its dynamics in the future is becoming clear: Climate change and its effects on the forest, the requirements of forest restructuring to adapt to changing environmental conditions, and the role of the forest as a carbon store will all require continuously updated data. Up to now, the Federal Forest Inventory has provided information at 10-year intervals. It is foreseeable that reliable information will be required at shorter intervals. The linking of data from terrestrial permanent sample inventories with remote sensing data, in conjunction with interim inventories on sub-sample networks, makes it possible to provide the desired information on the condition of the forest at shorter intervals. The associated methodological and procedural questions are the subject of new research in this area of work.
The department is also responsible for carrying out large-scale inventories over extensive areas. It is responsible for the management of Baden-Württemberg’s state inventory for the Federal Forest Inventory (BWI), which serves to record the state of the forest and forestry production possibilities nationally. The department is also responsible for carrying out state-specific evaluations and analyses of the BWI data and for making the results available to the administration and the public.
This area of work also includes the use of modern inventory technology, especially satellite navigation, and unmanned aerial systems (“drones”) as platforms for various sensors. The department advises the other specialist departments on the use of this technology.
The use of drones also opens up the prospect of further rationalisation of inventory measurement technology in the medium term.
Our work on remote sensing involves the development of methods for the monitoring of forest structures and forest damage over extensive areas, in combination with small-scale intensive surveys for research purposes. In this we advise and support the other specialist departments on remote sensing issues.
The current focus is on method development for forest inventories, and tree species and damage identification.
The main input data are the stereo aerial photographs from the aerial surveys carried out by the LGL [Baden-Württemberg’s State Office for Geoinformation and Land Development]. These are supplemented with drone-based images, the department’s own flights and satellite data. We use data from the European space programme Copernicus particularly intensively. Both true-colour and multispectral cameras and lidar data are used as sensors. This spectrum permits a specific recording of the forest stands depending on the question.
There is intensive exchange with other institutions using remote sensing in forestry. The department is a member of the Working Group on Forest Remote Sensing of the Federal States (AFFEL) and the Working Group of Forest Aerial Photo Interpreters (AFL).
Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, are a cost-effective and flexible extension of conventional aerial photography. However, to obtain highly accurate drone images of forest areas, a large number of preparatory steps must first be taken. The video briefly goes through each of these steps. In addition to the actual flight, the flight planning and the subsequent correction of the recording coordinates with a PPK module (PPK = Post-Processing-Kinematic) are explained. The focus of the video is on the further processing of the image data to obtain highly accurate surface models, orthomosaics and point clouds. With the help of these products, further analyses of the forest areas can be carried out.
Many protected species are bound to particular forest structures. At the FVA, the remote sensing unit develops methods for recording selected forest structures. The data are processed in so-called forest structure maps, which are presented in this video contribution: A forest height structure map; maps on capercaillie structures, gaps, stand height type and standing deadwood; tree, stocking and forest cover layers; maps showing deciduous/coniferous trees; a height heterogeneity map. Thanks to regular updating of the forest structure maps, they can be used in forestry practice for biodiversity monitoring, nature conservation management, and the promotion of particular species. The development and continued development of the maps, the analysis of time series, and the annual compilation and publication of the maps is led by the project “Monitoring of Biodiversity in Forests using Remote Sensing Methods" (MoBiTools) - Special Programme for Strengthening Biodiversity”.
Modelling and software solutions
Mathematical models and their implementation in computer programs are important tools for the description of forest processes and objects. The department develops both methodological principles and application-oriented simulation models for the description of trunk shapes and for the growth of individual trees and stands. Specially developed biomass functions are used to determine the biomass or carbon stocks for the greenhouse gas reports, to calculate the availability of bioenergy, and for nutrient balances. Software solutions include a computer-aided calculation and decision-making tool for timber harvesting and marketing as well as program libraries for shaft tapering models.
The developed function libraries are now available as packages of the software R (BDAT, TapeR) and are maintained by the department, which also provides technical and software support.
- The timber harvest program HOLZERNTE 8
- New tools for estimating the growth performance of the main tree species
- The BDAT Assortment and Volume program
Since the 1990s, the department has been involved in forest development and timber resource modelling (WEHAM) based on inventory data. For the evaluation of the federal forest inventories, different variants were developed in cooperation with the Thünen Institute. Research is currently under way on environmentally sensitive growth models for WEHAM as well as the development of methods for realistic timber use scenarios (business as usual).
One current topic is the role of forests in the carbon cycle, where they form an important carbon sink. Of particular interest is the question of what contribution sustainably managed forests make to carbon sequestration, especially in comparison with unused forests left to natural dynamics. To address this question, the department has developed a carbon sink accounting model that quantifies the CO2 sink effects of managed forests on the basis of inventory data and taking into account the relevant processes (storage and substitution).
The department is also involved in the development of modern mobile applications providing private forest owners with information about their forest, currently in the form of the smartphone app “Waldexpert” for advising small private forest owners.
These activities are part of the FVA's remit to transfer knowledge to the general public as well as to forestry specialists.
Mathematical-statistical methods are indispensable tools for the scientific analysis of data. The department supports the specialist departments of the FVA and other services in the design of research projects and trials in which data are collected. It also advises scientists on the evaluation of the collected data in terms of statistical analysis, the interpretation of the results, and their presentation.
Regularly held introductory courses in the programming language R and in statistics give researchers at the FVA the opportunity to train internally in this subject area. In addition, the methods forum provides a platform for the exchange of methods within the FVA.
The statistics department is also responsible for the introduction of statistical analysis software and for user support. The programming language R is used as the standard for statistical evaluations.
To meet scientific standards, the further development of methodological knowledge is a constant task of the department.
As a service provider within the FVA, the GIS department is responsible for the technical operation and further development of the geodata infrastructure. This includes all geodata management tasks such as the administration of geodatabases and GIS servers as well as the provision of GIS software. The area of work provides both technical support and advice and training on GIS methods for GIS-users at the FVA.
In addition, it produces nationwide spatial analyses and area statistics. One specialist focus is on the provision of temporally and spatially high-resolution climate data for climate impact research projects. The department accompanies and supports the conceptual development and technical implementation of numerous projects with spatial relevance. In various specialised procedures such as site mapping, forest biotope mapping and forest function mapping, the FVA's GIS department is responsible for state-wide geodata management. The results of the specialised procedures are made available to the public in the form of web services in accordance with INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community).
More information on the provision of geodata is available at Geodata.
Information Technology (IT)
The Information Technology Department operates large parts of the IT infrastructure, including the databases and the associated applications from research and development at the FVA.
It designs and implements innovative solutions for a wide range of research projects in close collaboration with the researchers.
The department also takes care of the coordination of the technical cooperation between the FVA and IT partners of the state administration.
Another central area of responsibility is the user service, which supports FVA employees with all IT-related problems. It also looks after the workstation computers and various special devices such as mobile devices for data collection in the field, powerful workstations for special evaluations, and the applications installed on them.