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New Esri story map analyzes forest products in southern US

February 29, 2016  - By 0 Comments

A new story map developed by U.S. Forest Service researchers allows users to interactively chart the ebb and flow of forest products across the southern U.S. — and visually tells the story of the decline of the forest products industry in the South over the last decades.

Using Forest Service Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data loaded onto the Esri ArcGIS Online (AGOL) platform, the Southern Forest Products map provides a constantly updated guide to southern timber product outputs and the mills that process them, as well as showing change over the past decades.

“This is the first of a suite of AGOL-based story maps we’re developing using FIA data,” said Chris Oswalt, research forester with the Forest Service Southern Research Station FIA unit. “The story map platform allows us to tell a more captivating story, which increases the reach of the data and engages partners we haven’t worked with before.”

The Southern Products story map uses layers of maps to show total outputs of different forest products – hardwood and softwood roundwood, sawlogs, pulpwood and veneer – down to the county level. Users can access layers already developed for a product and map information for specific products at the county, state and region levels.

“From the story map, a user can download the FIA data and layers in different formats such as maps and PDFs that can be used in presentations and other communication products,” Oswalt said. “In addition to telling a story, the interface helps us provide the current information our industry, state and other partners are already asking for in a format they can adapt to their own purposes.”

The story map includes a layer on primary wood processing in the South that allows the user to click on an individual mill for information on the type of wood mix used. The user can also click on each state for information on the number of mills and the number of people employed in wood processing mills in that state, as well as links to FIA harvest and utilization reports. The layer also includes a link to the mill directory developed and maintained by the Southern Group of State Foresters.

“This AGOL product will go a long way in promoting the valuable data that FIA collects in order to monitor forest products in and around the region” said forester James Bentley, who leads the FIA Timber Product Output (TPO) group. “We hope to use the functionality of the AGOL platform to increase the visibility of our TPO data and highlight the strength of our relationships with the state forestry agencies in the southern region.”

A special set of maps in Southern Forest Products illustrates the decline in number of mills operating in southern states in the period since FIA started collecting data. Another set of maps tells the story of how wood flows from one state to another, with statistics for each state on production versus amount retained within the state.

“These maps illustrate the storytelling power of using FIA data with AGOL,” Oswalt said. “Southern Forest Products charts the history of southern forest products, mills and the people who depend on them, as well as forecasting changes in areas such as bioenergy. One of the great strengths of the AGOL platform is the ability to update or generate new maps as soon as data is updated or added.”

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