Kansas Forest Service completes rural tree canopy mapping

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The rural tree canopy in Kansas totals more than 3.8 million acres

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas recently became one of the few states in the U.S., and the first state in the Great Plains, to successfully map its rural tree canopy. The Kansas Forest Service partnered with the United States Forest Service – Northern Research Station (USFS-NRS) to develop the geospatial layer.

The USFS-NRS provided funding and methodology expertise, while the Kansas Forest Service geographic information system team did the legwork to map trees in all 105 Kansas counties. Kansas Forest Service GIS specialist, Darci Paull and two Kansas State University students worked on the project for 11 months. Student workers Jakob Whitson and Abbey Marcotte started the mapping work, and Tanner Finney was recently hired after Whitson graduated.

The mapping began in June 2016 using specialized software and was published in June 2017.

The GIS team is currently inventorying windbreaks statewide using a tool developed by the U.S. Forest Service, Paull said. The tool creates a grid and the team maps each windbreak that crosses an intersect for two different years (2005 and 2015). The USFS-NRS is analyzing the initial data to see what changes have occurred over time.

The tree canopy project and linear intersect tool are part of an effort to map trees in the Great Plains outside of forests. A forest is defined as an acre of trees measuring 120 feet by 363 feet. Much of the treed areas in the Great Plains does not meet the specification of 120 feet wide, so is often underreported. Even after the linear intersect work is finished, the partnership plans to use innovative GIS techniques to improve geospatial data.

“These new mapping tools and results will allow us to better manage our natural resources,” Paull said.

The new projects are just the start. “Soon we will have new maps and analyses that will include the tree canopy,” Paull said. “With the success of the tree canopy, we are thrilled to continue our partnership with the USFS-NRS.”

“The Kansas Forest Service is most pleased to be working with the U.S. Forest Service’s National Agroforestry Center and the Northern Research Station’s Forestry Inventory and Analysis Unit on the canopy project,” said Larry Biles, state forester for Kansas. “The information provided by these units allows us to better quantify the magnitude of forest and trees outside the state’s Forest Inventory Analysis zones, and over time, this project will provide valuable trend data. Additionally, the canopy project is a useful higher education training tool as it is providing practical work experience for GIS students at Kansas State University.”

The tree canopy dataset has been published at https://doi.org/10.2737/RDS-2017-0025

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