The Virtual Forest

Visualization of Virtual Forest`s single tree database
Visualization of Virtual Forest`s single tree database

Platform for forestry and timber industry as well as nature conservation

With the Virtual Forest, North-Rhine Westphalia has left behind the days when one could not see the forest for all the trees. Virtual Forest models real forest stands as virtual ecosystems and production sites and therefore serves as an innovative source of information and an aid for planning and orientation in forestry. More than this, the Virtual Forest is also of interest to recreation-seekers and tourists. The objective of these instruments and techniques is to facilitate sustainable forest management with low labour intensities that guarantees an efficient supply of raw material to the wood industry. This objective places the Virtual Forest at the centre of a variety of efforts to improve the competitiveness of the “Forest and Wood” sector – with due consideration of the structural weakness of the small privately owned forest.
The virtual model incorporates, among others, the topography, soil, roads, buildings, stocking etc. and integrates a single tree database containing the digital ID for every tree in NRW (geographical coordinates, height, crown diameter, DBH, etc.).

At the beginning of the project, in 2005, the Dortmunder Initiative zur rechnerintegrierten Fertigung (RIF) e.V. carried out an extensive feasibility study by order of the Landesforstverwaltung as well as the Landesbetrieb Wald-und-Holz North-Rhine Westphalia. The second phase of the project focused on basic development and the preparation of the results for practical applications in biological and technical production. The outcome was presented to a professional audience at the KWF-Tagung 2008, at the LIGNA 2009 and the ElmiaWood 2009.

The actual research project started in March 2010 is titled “Development of modern processes for an integrated large-scale forest information system and the efficient technological production in forest economy for purposeful raw material mobilisation and provision for timber trade and industry”. The federal state North-Rhine Westphalia und the European Union allocate funds for this third project step of the Virtual Forest. Development tasks are taken on by RIF and the Institute of Man-Machine Interaction of RWTH Aachen University (MMI) in closed cooperation. Furthermore, as with former projects subject-specific questions were handled in closed cooperation with the Chair of
Forest Work Science and Applied Computer Science and the Chair of Forest Yield Science, both of TU München, the Robotics Research Institute of TU Dortmund, the company CPA-Systems GmbH and the Pöyry Management Consulting (Germany) GmbH.