Taking Inventory Of Maryland’s Forests Using Satellite Imagery
Maryland Added to U.S. Forest Service’s Annual Tree Survey
ANNAPOLIS, MD — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service announced today that the U.S. Forest Service has launched a new system for taking inventory of Maryland’s forests. The system, which uses satellite imagery will be conducted annually and will provide better data to guide conservation.
The former system relied on periodic measurements taken in 10 to 13-year cycles. Maryland’s most recent periodic inventory, conducted in 1999, showed that the state had 2.6 million forested acres, a loss of more than 100,000 acres since 1986. Five U.S. Forest Service inventories reveal that Maryland’s forests have been contracting since the 1960s.
“Losing forested land is a major issue here,” said Forest Service Director Steven W. Koehn. “This new inventory approach will give us the reliable and timely data we need to assess how development continues to affect our forest resources.” The annual inventory will measure characteristics such as forest area, number of trees, timber volume, wildlife habitat, tree biomass growth, and changes in the state and its counties.
“We want to better understand the entire forest ecosystem," said Dr. Charles Scott, manager of the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northeastern Research Station in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. "In addition to timber data, the survey will provide information to assess the condition of wildlife habitat, plant diversity, fuel and potential fire hazard, and mortality caused by insects and disease."
FIA researchers began Maryland’s survey in May. Under the improved survey system, which is being implemented nationwide, a percentage of plots in Maryland will be assessed each year, and an inventory of the whole state will be completed every seven years.
The inventory will be conducted in three phases. The first uses satellite imagery to classify the land. In the second phase, ground crews take tree and site measurements at sample locations. These measurements are then combined with the satellite imagery to provide reliable statewide and county information annually. In the third phase, resource analysts examine some of these areas in greater detail to learn more about forest health.
Six months after collection, the data from the surveys will be made available to the public on the U.S. Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us/ne/fia. The data from forest inventories are used to formulate federal, state, and local plans for managing natural resources.
Posted June 15, 2004