Use and utility of rasterized heatmaps – Part 2
Dr. Nan Pond
Dr. Nan Pond
5 April, 2019 min read

In the first post in this blog series, we covered several ways that you can use a set of rasterized inventory heatmaps to visualize stand structure and delineate stands. In this post, we’ll be covering additional ways you can leverage heatmap information to improve your knowledge of your landbase and support decision-making.

Harvest planning

In addition to delineating stands, rasterized heatmaps provide a clean way to conduct harvest planning. This can including delineating harvest areas, using a layer of total or product-specific volumes. Heatmaps are also useful in identifying sub-stand areas to target or avoid, and provide foresters a great reference without having to rely on memories or notes from a field visit to a given stand.

Change detection

SilviaTerra’s heatmaps can be used for change detection in a few different ways. Often, heatmaps are viewed in a GIS system with an aerial imagery baselayer such as a Bing Maps aerial image. These layers may or may not be from the current year, whereas the stack of imagery used in SilviaTerra’s processing generally allows the inventory date to be as recent as 1 to 5 months. Discrepancies visible between SilviaTerra’s heatmaps and the visible aerial imagery are often indicative of change to the ground condition that is not captured in the aerial imagery – a way to identify areas that may have been disturbed, and should be reviewed.

If you have conducted multiple CruiseBoost inventories with SilviaTerra, or have multiple years of SilviaTerra Basemap data, then differences between two SilviaTerra heatmaps also provide the basis for detecting change. A simple arithmetic difference between two years of inventory can help identify areas of potential change or disturbance.

Unexpected ground conditions

Rasterized heatmaps provide a way to quickly identify unexpected ground conditions within a forested stand. Because they provide a view “from above” of each stand, patches of failed regeneration or entire failed plantations are visible using rasterized heatmaps in a way that they may not be visible from the road. Heatmaps can be used to quickly assess and identify areas where hardwoods are dominant within a pine plantation, or unstocked areas where regeneration may have failed.

For example, in the images below, the location and extent of unstocked areas across the landscape are clearly visible.


Heatmaps also serve as a visual check of harvest boundaries, especially for regeneration harvests and heavy thinnings. Where a harvest conducted in a neighboring stand may have strayed across the existing stand boundaries, the cutover area will be notable in the rasterized inventory. This can be a very useful tool both for identifying areas of timber trespass, and for identifying areas where stand boundaries may need to be updated to reflect the extent of a recent harvest.

In conclusion

We hope these ideas are a helpful starting point for users of our heatmaps, and give you insight into how you can leverage modern technology to do more in your forest management.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can make use of SilviaTerra’s CruiseBoost inventory system or Basemap inventory product, please contact us using our website.

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about the author

Dr. Nan Pond

Dr. Nan Pond

Director of Certification
Dr. Nan Pond serves as the Director of Certification at NCX. She is responsible for ensuring that our natural capital products reflect the highest quality science as we hone our existing methods and expand into new credit types and new geographies. She is the recipient of the 2020 SAF Young Forester Leadership Award and has held multiple leadership roles within the Society of American Foresters. Dr. Pond earned a PhD in forest biometrics from Michigan Technological University and a Bachelor of Science in forest ecosystem science from SUNY ESF.