A spatial solution to Ecological Site Classification for British Forestry using Ecosystem Management Decision Support

Ecological Site Classification (ESC) is being used to define site quality in order to help British foresters satisfy sustainable management objectives. ESC takes climatic and edaphic data to assess site quality. An obvious use of the classification is to predict the ecological suitability of commercial tree species, amenity tree species and new native woodland communities on any particular site. In addition, ESC can inform other forest management decisions, such as silvicultural systems, regeneration potential, long term retention, fertilizer application, etc. The analysis can be done manually or with the aid of a computer based decision support system.

The Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) system integrates the NetWeaver knowledge base system with ArcView GIS to provide decision support technology for ecological landscape analysis applications. ESC provides decision support for individual landscape units, the EMDS implementation extends ESC to enable assessment of hundreds or thousands of units in large landscapes in a single analysis. The NetWeaver technology that underlies EMDS enables a more flexible problem-solving approach that permits evaluation of the degree of truth rather than the binary true or false of more traditional rule-based approaches. Additionally, NetWeaver allows an assessment of the effect of missing information, and the modular incorporation of knowledge bases that might evaluate a range of related topics, such as the social, economic and design value of woodlands.

This paper describes a prototype ESC-EMDS system which calculates the suitability of tree species or native woodland types at the forest landscape scale. We see this development as the core of a spatial decision support tool which will ultimately link spatial decision support system modules to evaluate the ecological impact of forest design plans. The work brings together two project teams from the Forestry Commission's Research Agency in Britain and the US Forest Service in Oregon.