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Why do we need Ecological Site Classification (ESC)?

The methodology was developed to improve sustainable forest management by helping managers select an appropriate species and National Vegetation Classification (NVC) woodland community ecologically suited to a site; rather than by adjusting site factors by excessive ground preparation or fertiliser to grow a pre-determined species of tree.

When will ESC be available as a GIS?

The next version of ESC is likely to be spatial. ESC-GIS will allow forest managers to incorporate site suitability assessments into the forest landscape planning process, and test different options for tree and woodland types. A prototype spatial version of ESC-GIS has been developed on ArcView GIS. We are also testing an internet spatial ESC-GIS as a java applet running on an internet browser.

However, the non-spatial version of ESC will always be a tool that is used for detailed analysis at the site or stand scale.

How will ESC-GIS be used?

ESC-GIS will allow forest managers to incorporate species suitability into the forest planning process at the forest landscape scale. Using digital Forestry Commission Soil Maps at 1:10000 scale, the system can assess the species suitability of forest plans and test different scenario options of tree species, native woodlands and open space. ESC-GIS layers might be linked to other information and models that evaluate habitat suitability for keystone and BAP species. ESC-GIS will help forest managers find the best sites for a particular native woodland community.

When the NVC open community models are released in ESC-GIS the manager will also be able to check for heathland and grassland community suitability. This will assist in the landscape ecology part of planning multiple benefit forests.

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