Prof. Dr. S.P.S. Kushwaha Forestry and Ecology Department, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing


Remote sensing and GIS in sustainable forest management
One sector in India, which has been the fore-runner on use of remote sensing since beginning, is forestry. The major breakthrough in forest remote sensing in the country, however, was achieved in 1982 when a nationwide project on mapping of forest cover in India using Landsat multi-spectral scanner system (MSS) imagery on 1:1 million scale for 1972-75 and 1980-82 periods was taken up by NRSA, Hyderabad. Country did not have a forest density map till that time and nobody had much idea on actual forested area in India. The FSI has mapped the forest types of India on 1:50,000 scale and mapped 178 natural forest/vegetation types of late. The twin technologies of remote sensing and GIS have changed the face of the forest management in India. Some of the well-established applications are: forest cover type and density mapping, growing stock assessment, revision/updating of forest working plans, site suitability analysis for afforestation/reforestation, productivity/biomass/carbon assessment, wildlife habitat evaluation, forest fire tracking and fire risk assessment, biodiversity characterization, applications in forest litigation, etc. The availability of high spectral and spatial resolution satellite imagery has greatly helped in improving the assessment and monitoring of even smaller forest features, even tree types occasionally, with subtle tonal differences.