Why do we need Ecological Site Classification (ESC)?
The methodology was developed to improve sustainable forest management by helping managers select an appropriate species and National Vegetation Classification (NVC) woodland community ecologically suited to a site; rather than by adjusting site factors by excessive ground preparation or fertiliser to grow a pre-determined species of tree.
Why do I have to type in the elevation of the site?
It is possible to obtain the elevation of a site from its grid reference using a digital elevation model (DEM). However, the DEM at 100 x 100 m resolution for the whole of Britain is very large, and as well as adding substantially to the cost of the program, the extra data access time would slow the operation of ESC-DSS. It is easy enough to check the elevation on a 1:50000 map at the same time as looking up the grid reference!
Why can’t the system select soil data from a grid reference?
Soil data held at national level for Scotland, England and Wales are at a scale unsuitable for ESC-DSS which operates at stand level.
The national soil inventories describe soil associations, in which a group of lithologically-related soil types occur. Thus an association may include a range of soil types of different soil quality (Soil Moisture Regime & Soil Nutrient Regime).
Will ESC-DSS be able to assess the impact of climate change on species suitability?
Yes. We are currently examining future climate scenarios against which we can test species suitability and yield; and also the suitability of semi-natural woodlands and other NVC communities.
When will ESC be available as a GIS?
The next version of ESC-DSS is likely to be spatial. ESC-GIS will allow forest managers to incorporate site suitability assessments into the forest landscape planning process, and test different options for tree and woodland types. A prototype spatial version of ESC-GIS has been developed on ArcView GIS. We are also testing an internet spatial ESC-GIS as a java applet running on an internet browser.
However, the non-spatial version of ESC-DSS will always be a tool that is used for detailed analysis at the site or stand scale.
How will ESC-GIS be used?
ESC-GIS will allow forest managers to incorporate species suitability into the forest planning process at the forest landscape scale. Using digital Forestry Commission Soil Maps at 1:10000 scale, the system can assess the species suitability of forest plans and test different scenario options of tree species, native woodlands and open space. ESC-GIS layers might be linked to other information and models that evaluate habitat suitability for keystone and BAP species. ESC-GIS will help forest managers find the best sites for a particular native woodland community.
When the NVC open community models are released in ESC-GIS the manager will also be able to check for heathland and grassland community suitability. This will assist in the landscape ecology part of planning multiple benefit forests.
What are the new features that will be included in Version 2?
- Thick client application
It will be downloaded from a website, unpacked and installed on the users computer and access data over the internet or from a DVD.
It exposes web-services to allow third party application developers internet access to the modules of ESC-DSS.
- Removal of operating system limitations
It is written in Java and so will work on most operating systems PCs (Windows OS), Sun workstation (UNIX OS), and Apple Mac (OS2 OS).
- Improved access to scenario testing
It supports the creation of multiple scenarios based on different information sources.
- National scale data built in
It includes calculated default soil quality and climate data for the whole of Britain.
- Digital soil key
A digital version of the Forestry Commission Soil Key (by Fiona Kennedy) is included.
- Plant key
A key based upon the vegetative characteristics of 130 common woodland plants is included