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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.
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.
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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