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Forest Inventories

Spruce Forest near South Ram RiverProper forest management practices can only be implemented if land managers have accurate information on the location, extent and condition of the forest resources and the ability to analyze those datum to determine the potential effects of different activities. Forest inventories give us important information to help calculate the Annual Allowable Cut. Inventories provide data on tree age, tree height, what plant species are present, and how much a forest will grow and how fast.

Alberta's Phase 3 Inventory has been one of the most widely used inventories by the provincial forest industry. Its main focus is timber production. It has been kept up-to-date to include forest impacts, such as burned areas, timber harvesting, and land clearings (well sites, pipeline rights of way, agricultural expansion).

In the near future, a new inventory—the Alberta Vegetation Inventory (AVI)—will be completed and will replace Phase 3. This new inventory is designed to provide information on other forest resources besides the trees to facilitate integrated, ecologically-based resource management. Initiated in the mid-1980s, the AVI has some of the same features as Phase 3, but in more detail. It provides better information on artificial features (roads, pipelines, wellsites, etc.), vegetation height, species, crown closure, age and productivity. In keeping with the new direction of forest management, AVI also includes information that was not used in past inventories. Some examples of this are soil moisture, waterbodies (streams, rivers, lakes, etc.), and land elevation. This information is turned into digital computer data and stored in a database to help manage forests. These data can be used in a geographical information system (GIS) to enable more sophisticated resource analysis and to produce maps for many different themes.

The Alberta Vegetation Inventory is being completed by both government and the forest industry. This methodology was formally adopted by the Alberta government and FMA holders in 1991 as the provincial minimum standard for forest inventories. AVI will be the basis for new forest management plans that address both timber and non-timber values, and provide for sustainable development of our forest resources. At the end of 1996, 164,188 square kilometres of forest had been inventoried using this system.

Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.




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