Forest Research involvement in the VISULANDS programme

Local stakeholders assess visualisations of Clashindarroch ForestForest Research was the UK project partner, supported by Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) Landscape Adviser. Our involvement in the Visualisation tools for public participation in managing landscape change (VISULANDS) programme was:

  • Participating in the development of methods for multi-dimensional analyses of landscape quality by applying expertise on landscape ecology and engagement with the end users, and providing case study sites
  • Considering the applicability of the project/visualisation methods in British forested landscapes, and the potential to develop these into a new set of tools for forest landscape planning.

Much management is now focussed on decisions at scales greater than the stand or coupe. The advent of geographic information systems (GIS) as a management tool has transformed the ease of dealing with spatial data – but the development of models to support the new decisions has lagged behind.

Forest Enterprise have explored a number of visualisation techniques, with ‘Forester’ – and there appeared to be scope for incorporating landscape ecology principles within this. However, while the GIS technical fixes were soluble, there were substantial and fundamental questions about how to incorporate assessments of other landscape qualities into the land use and landscape decisions – and also the validity of the technical methods in enhancing the participation of many in the decision-making process.

flowchart showing VisuLands project workflow
VISULANDS project workflow

Data collation for 3D models

We were responsible for collating data for the 3D models of the United Kingdom case study sites. Different forest management scenarios (such as expansion of woodland area, translocation of forests with agricultural land and changes to management practice of current forests) were identified and tested (involving ecological site classification and productivity models and calculation of landscape ecology metrics).

Developing landscape change indicators

We developed landscape change indicators applicable to forests, and mixed agricultural/woodland areas, that can be validated against the results of preference models. We also assessed the consequences of land use scenarios on production from woodlands and consider the relationships between landscape functions.

Assessment, exploitation and technology transfer

We managed assessment and exploitation of the project, and assisted other groups to develop technology transfer and exploitation plans. We also assessed the value of the products derived by the project for local stakeholders at UK case sites.

A particular study at Clashindarroch Forest in Buchan Forest District compared the effectiveness of these technological approaches with those relying less on technology but much on encouraging user involvement, such as the 'Planning for Real' process.