The goal of this project is provide a widely available model with a graphical user interface (GUI) that incorporates sound research in forest canopy analysis. The creation of a new model would require the initial writing, testing, and continuous support within the Forest Service infrastructure. In addition, users would require training or at least a minimum period of time to learn the new system. Because many Forest Service employees use the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) for forest analysis and FVS is accompanied by a GUI called Suppose, it is logical to incorporate this new research into FVS rather than creating a new model just for canopy analysis. FVS is currently supported by the Forest Management Service Center (FMSC). By facilitating the interaction between FMSC and the proposer of this project at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, SDTDC has initiated significant improvements FVS.
The list below corresponds to canopy attributes that can be predicted with current research. The attributes are listed in decreasing quality of of the results, where Canopy Cover equations are the most likely to emulate actual conditions and Competition Indices are the least likely.
- Canopy Cover
- Crown Reflectance
- Crown Volume
- Mean Canopy Height/Roughness
- Competition Indices
As a result of this project, FVS has improved canopy width and canopy cover equations for an assortment of species nationwide. This is especially important for the eastern variant which lacked species specific canopy estimation abilities. Creating reasonable estimations of other canopy attributes requires the trees within the plots to be mapped. Once mapped, a morphing technique may be applied to better compensate for plot edge effects. Currently it is not possible to map the trees in FVS, but FMSC and RMRS are discussing the possibility of adding this feature. While mapped plots are rare, the increased functionality would greatly improve the model for a wide range of applications including, wildlife biology (habitat modeling), forestry (canopy effects of forest competition), hydrology (interception of precipitation), and atmospheric science (gas exchange and flux studies). Due to the complexities of incorporating stem mapping into FVS, this capability may not be available in the near term.
Status: The Forest Management Service Center will determine future incorporation of stem mapping possibilities within FVS to further predict canopy structure.
FVS is maintained by the Forest Management Service Center (FMSC). The program can be downloaded at their site.