GIS Analysis Program

The purpose of our GIS Forest Health Analysis Program is to create a spatial analysis of the entire Sequoia National Forest, including the Giant Sequoia National Monument and the wilderness areas surrounding it, which will take a holistic view of forest health by analyzing how various management techniques (i.e. clear-cutting, fuels reduction, meadow restoration, etc.) have affected forest health.  To do so, we will use the Forest Service’s own data to create map layers including past logging history, fire frequency and intensity, wildlife habitat, watershed health, and more.  We then create layers using our own data gathered by SFK staff, volunteers, and interns, to get a full view of forest health, which includes the long- and short-term effects of forest management techniques.  By comparing previously managed areas with untouched wilderness, we should get an accurate assessment of what management techniques create the healthiest forest conditions.  This information will be used to inform forest management techniques and policy in the future.
Our Summer Intern Forest Monitoring Program trains college students (both undergraduate and graduate with a relevant major) to collect scientific data from within the forest and to create GIS maps of the forest conditions for a spatial analysis of forest health and sequoia regeneration in logged vs. unlogged areas of Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument. This program is critical at a time when leading forest scientists agree that global climate change is already affecting watershed health and sequoia life cycles. The Forest Service’s scientists are seeking data to determine how best to manage the sequoias and their surrounding ecosystems to help mitigate the changes that will occur due to climate change, and SFK is poised to assist them in determining best management practices in a warming Southern Sierra.

Our organization’s research assists the Forest Service in determining the best management strategies for Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument by scientifically demonstrating how their various management techniques have affected the forest. SFK’s data will help determine which strategies have created healthy forests and which have damaged ecosystems, which can advise the agency in best future management practices.

Monitoring allows SFK to document forest characteristics, including wildlife use, canopy density (shade), watershed health, and conditions that affected past fire behavior.  The findings are used to highlight the differences between managed and unmanaged forests.  We have begun our GIS spatial analysis and last year had a dedicated, full-time AmeriCorps GIS Director, Ryan Bollinger, who spent the year getting the GIS program fully functional, and who directed the 2011 Student Interns in their data collection locations and methods. 
Our analysis is two-pronged, using GIS mapping to compare managed vs. unmanaged areas of the forest for forest health and to determine the best conditions for sequoia regeneration.  SFK has collected important data on several square miles of the forest and input that data into GIS format, so that the various management strategies used by the Forest Service can be graphically displayed and scientifically analyzed to determine which management technique creates the healthiest forest.  GIS software is used to store photographic, geographic, and biologic data, which is then displayed to more easily recognize and accurately determine patterns and irregularities in forest health conditions.
View a slideshow that outlines the results of our GIS Analysis thus far: GIS PowerPoint
We look forward to securing funding to develop our GIS and research program for continued analysis of changing conditions that affect sequoias and Southern Sierra Nevada ecosystems.