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Quang Tri promotes digitalization in forest protection

The management of forest protection is increasingly facing numerous challenges, with dwindling forest rangers' forces and vast forest areas, while violators have become more sophisticated, causing difficulties for forest owners and authorities. To apply scientific and technological advances to forest protection, a research team in the Agriculture and Forestry sector of the province has studied and implemented information technology software in forestry to analyze satellite images for early detection of forest status changes on the ground, supporting forest protection work in the province. This project won the third prize at the Province’s 10th Technical Innovation Contest in 2023 and received a Consolation prize at the 17th National Technical Innovation Competition in 2023.

Quang Tri promotes digitalization in forest protection

A fire in Hung Hoa’s forest- Photo: KLQT

Until now, most violations related to forest exploitation and encroachment have been detected through manual reporting and long patrols. However, this traditional method has several limitations: it consumes time and manpower, reports are often delayed, by the time violations are detected, considerable damage has usually occurred, making investigations and verifications difficult. Consequently, combating these violations becomes extremely challenging, and resources are limited.

Given this situation, a research team sought to overcome these limitations by proactively detecting forest status changes using advanced technology. Their approach aimed to organize patrols and inspections more efficiently, reducing pressure on forest ranger forces and forest owners, while also enabling timely information gathering for prevention efforts.

The technical solution involved utilizing registered accounts to access satellite images from Planet, employing QGIS software to download satellite images of Quang Tri province before and after the monitored period, and overlaying them with the latest forest status maps. The Mapswipetool tool within QGIS was used to compare areas of change, and mark and export these changes in formats like *.kml, *.kmz for further verification on older satellite images via Google Earth. Subsequently, smartphones with satellite image apps such as Mapinr, Geopfes, and Vtool were used for on-site inspections.

Another aspect of the solution was using computers with QGIS software to format VN2000 coordinate systems for Planet satellite images. These images were then overlaid with older images and the latest forest status maps using Mapinfor software for scanning and identifying forest status changes or changes in land and resources on the ground.

The solution was implemented across the entire forest and forestry land area of the province, totaling 248,121.6 hectares, including 126,692.4 hectares of natural forest, 121,420.2 hectares of planted forest, and 37,756.0 hectares of planned forestry land development areas.

The digitization of forestry, through the application of ICT software, particularly QGIS, Mapinfor, and Google Earth, facilitated early detection of forest status changes on the ground, increasing accuracy and timely detection of forest dynamics. This significantly eased the burden on forest ranger forces and relevant authorities.

The technical aspect of the solution is relatively straightforward and cost-effective, utilizing common tools such as computers, GPS, and smartphones. Depending on the forest area to be surveyed, the time required for implementation is significantly reduced compared to traditional methods, often taking just one day to detect forest changes, approximately one-tenth of the time required by traditional methods.

This solution can also benefit consulting firms involved in field surveys by reducing the need for labor-intensive on-site investigations and cutting investigation costs. The economic benefits of the solution include tangible and intangible values, aiding forest owners and authorities in early detection and timely intervention in forest changes and land use dynamics. This, in turn, reduces pressure on forest ranger forces and forest management agencies. The scalability of this research application is high as it is entirely cost-free.

On a societal level, the initial research results have been widely applied to forest ranger forces and will be extended to forest owners and relevant agencies involved in forest protection and management. Protecting and developing the forest area of the province forms the basis for annual environmental service payments, carbon credit payments, greenhouse gas emission reduction, ecological environmental protection, disaster prevention, and limiting the impact of natural disasters on residential areas, industrial zones, agricultural land, infrastructure, etc. The research solution also serves as a tool for state management agencies and businesses to enhance monitoring and management, reducing management costs and fulfilling professional duties.

Nguyen Minh Dien, the project leader, emphasized that the method of using Planet satellite images for this solution is entirely novel in the province’s forestry sector.

The application of this solution has yielded high efficiency and speed, with a level of accuracy exceeding 90% in comparing image dynamics with ground realities. The research solution, applied in the province’s forestry sector and currently implemented by the Forest Ranger Department, has shown very promising results.

In the future, it is possible to expand research into automated satellite image interpretation using software such as QGIS and Mapinfo, applying it to analyze and construct specialized maps such as forest and forestry land use maps, and predictive maps for forest fires, landslides, riverbank erosion, saltwater intrusion, floods, etc. Therefore, there is a need to enhance awareness and promote the application of research solutions in forest protection and management to reduce labor intensity and improve efficiency.

Training sessions should be organized to instruct forest ranger forces and QLBVR teams on GIS software applications in forestry, enhancing their skills. Additional equipment such as smartphones, laptops, and supporting software like Vtool Survey should be provided to enhance QLBVR forces' capabilities.

Moreover, there should be increased use of free software and applications such as Google Earth, Mapinr, and GeoPfes. Technical personnel should actively research, learn, and explore other high-quality satellite image sources, applying digital technology to practical work situations.

The management and monitoring of forest changes, data management, editing, and printing of forestry maps have been regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Forest and forestry land data tracking has been stored in a centralized database, regularly updated and extracted, providing timely reports to serve management and directive tasks. Particularly, the application of remote sensing technology has facilitated the monitoring of forest resources, making it convenient and highly accurate without requiring much time or effort.

With this technology, field workers no longer need to manually measure on-site but can instead rely on interpreted images to update changes, and then verify some points on the ground. For forest protection tasks, systems for managing and monitoring forest and forestry land changes have been implemented in Quang Tri province. These include forest fire alert systems, fire prediction systems to manage and monitor forest and forestry land changes, and early warning of potential forest fire incidents. These devices are interconnected via the internet and controlled by intelligent software installed on servers, enabling efficient management of large forest areas with minimal manpower and costs.

Thanks to the effectiveness of implementing these science and technology applications in forest management and protection, the number of forest fires has gradually decreased over the years. From 11 incidents causing damage to 94 hectares in 2011, it reduced to 8 incidents with 27.76 hectares of damage in 2021, corresponding to a 27.3% decrease in incidents and a 70.5% decrease in damage area. The total forest and forestry land area of the province has increased from 229,844 hectares in 2011 to 245,996 hectares in 2021, with forest coverage increasing from 47.1% in 2011 to approximately 50% in 2021.

Tran Cat Linh - Ngoc Mai

Tran Cat Linh - Ngoc Mai

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