Huge backpacks, complicated equipment, unusual “forest hiking route”, sharp eye on the trees, careful computer work… Markus Schäfer, Master in Disaster Ma-nagement and Risk Governance as well as Diplomforstwirt, is assigned with an exciting and at the same time significant task: Together with his colleague Matthias Colling, he is collecting data in the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district for the fourth federal forest inventory, which started in April 2021. Numerous characteristics of the trees are to be collected until the end of December 2022. The results are expected to be published in 2024, with Schäfer and Colling – who form a so-called “troop” – responsible for 1,450 random samples.
WEROCK cannot help to collect this large amount of data, but with the Ruxton Chest Pack it ensures that both men can use their equipment comfortably and, above all, wear it safely on their bodies. The Chest-Pack is worn like a backpack, except that the actual pocket is in the front. This way, all important (electronic) tools are always at hand and well protected at the same time. More on this later.
Background knowledge: The Federal Forest Inventory
The Federal Forest Inventory (BWI) is a project jointly sponsored by the federal government and the states, which is ordered by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and is repeated every ten years. Previous inventories covered the years 1987, 2002, and 2012. In addition, carbon stock data were still collected in 2008 and 2017 in a sub-sample of the BWI. The following basic data are particularly relevant in the BWI: Tree species, tree diameter, tree height, regeneration, stand structure, deadwood, and land use before or after forest. In total, over 150 characteristics are recorded. These recorded data are then used to calculate a wide range of statistical data on forests in the federal states and throughout Germany. The most important of these are: Forest area, wood supply, wood increment and wood utilization, tree species diversity, age structure and closeness to nature. Ultimately, the current state of the forests and their changes or transformations since the last inventory are to be derived.
BWI is a central database for the German forest by providing an overall view of large-scale forest conditions and forest production possibilities. Only the BWI provides an essential knowledge base for sensible climate and environmentally friendly action. Together with the Federal Forest Inventory, the Carbon Inventory is an up-to-date database for international greenhouse gas reporting based on the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. From its data, information on biomass and carbon storage in the forest is derived, and the changes in land use of and by forests are recorded. In combination with the WEHAM model (forest development and wood supply modeling), it is then possible to assess how the CO2 storage capacity of forests can be influenced by different factors and scenarios. In combination with climate models, experts can finally assess to what extent our forests can cope with climate change and where risks exist.
In species conservation, the findings provided by the BWI are also important: as already mentioned, the diversity of tree species is one of the basic data that must be recorded. However, the forest inventory also determines how much deadwood exists in the forest, which serves as a significant indicator of species diversity in the entire forest ecosystem: numerous insects and fungi depend on deadwood. The data are therefore not only essential for climate protection; the extensive data collection also provides the basis for important guidelines for the protection of nature and wildlife, in that climate or nature policy at federal, state as well as European levels draws on them.
In addition to ecological and environmental policy issues, the data collected can also help with forestry and timber management decisions. For example, they provide information on the development of stands, species and quality of the raw material wood.
The inventory procedure
The inventory procedure is very complex. Before inventory teams go into the forest, the previous inventory procedure is reviewed and adapted to the new requirements. Technical advances and new scientific findings are taken into account: In the current federal forest inventory, for example, DNA samples are being brought together for the first time to determine genetic diversity.
It is impossible to measure every single tree: Germany has 90 billion trees and a good third of the country is forested. Scientists therefore work with a sample that covers a small but representative part of the forest. The basic method is a systematic sampling network that is distributed throughout Germany and covers the country in a grid of 4 × 4 kilometers. More and more countries are increasing the density of the grid in order to increase the significance of the results. At the nodes of the grid are the samples and each of them – also called a tract – is a square with a side length of 150 meters. At each of the corners, the sampling points, inventory teams collect the data – of course, only if those corners are in the forest. According to Gerald Kändler, head of the BWI in Baden-Württemberg, this results in an average of 70,000 to 80,000 samples in Germany. Thus, in the current inventory, data will be collected at 80,000 points.
The sample points are permanent: they are therefore used again in every forest inventory. On this basis, the recorded forest characteristics can be compared again and again with those of ten years ago, so that an overall view of the developments or trends of the trees and forests can be created in the meaningful long-term study. However, other measures also contribute to the reliable comparability of the results: For example, scientists always re-evaluate the data from the last inventory using current methods.
Each sample point is invisibly marked with a 30-centimeter-long metal rod driven completely into the ground. To find these points again after ten years, the measuring teams need satellite navigation, maps, special compass, distance measurements and metal detector. In addition, specific measuring devices such as Criterion are used to determine which trees to measure – it uses angle counting to show whether a tree is thick enough, even at a greater distance.
On the move in the forest with IT support
Digitization measures significantly increase work efficiency everywhere and should not be lacking in the forest either. In addition to various measuring devices, the inventory teams are equipped with mobile field computers that not only help them to find the samples, but also to record data and check the quality of the data. After an inventory team has measured trees, the data is entered directly into the computer. However, the data must then be checked, because the quality of the data is crucial to the validity of the inventory. The employees are therefore equipped with data acquisition software (offline client) specially developed for BWI, which checks the entered data for plausibility and completeness on site in the forest. This software alerts the inventory staff to possible data errors, so that they can immediately correct the data by measuring it again or collect and enter forgotten values.
However, the forest working environment poses great challenges to the use of the electronic devices: the highly unpredictable weather and seasonal conditions – sometimes even extreme conditions, the special forest environment with high humidity, direct sunlight and unusual temperature ranges. But dust, insects or the hard edges of rocks or stones can also damage normal computers. Nevertheless, the mobile IT equipment used by the troops must be able to withstand these harsh outdoor conditions and function reliably. They must be very rugged, but also have sufficient connectivity to support the forestry workers without problems.
Inventory crews don’t just need to rely on their computers, however. Accessories also play a major role in this strenuous work in the forest. They can’t be constantly fussing with packing and unpacking equipment when they need to navigate or measure something. With the right accessories, the devices are not only protected, but also in an optimal holder. This saves time and nerves for employees.
Both the rugged electronic options and the accessories are important elements of WEROCK’s versatile range. One WEROCK product that has already convinced the inventory team is the Ruxton-Pack.
Ruxton-Pack: Reliable support for the inventory team
The Ruxton-Pack is an ergonomically designed chest pack for outdoor tablets. For this purpose, a chest holder has been designed to carry the pack stably and comfortably in front of the chest. With the help of a self-adhesive Velcro fastener, the tablet is securely attached to the bag and can be quickly and easily removed at any time if necessary. To access the device, the user simply has to open the zippered pocket and flip open its front. This not only makes the bag easy to use, but also ensures that the electronic device can be transported and used safely and conveniently. With this chest pack, Schäfer and Colling always have both hands free, which in turn has numerous advantages: it simplifies the complicated measurement processes and facilitates data entry, which has to be done on site. In addition, the team has the assurance that the computer is well protected and safely stored. This means that our forest heroes can always concentrate on their surroundings when they are on the move in difficult or dangerous terrain. With these advantages, the tablet chest bag not only convinces as an optimal alternative to the backpack, but also works perfectly together with your own backpack.
As a supplement to the Ruxton pack, we offer many other useful accessories that are also used by the Schäfer team in forest surveying. For example, there are various holding trays that can be used to attach the field computer to the pack in an even more stable manner. The tablet is fixed with lanyards at each corner. The comfort as well as the stability are ensured in each case by a magnetic lock and a mechanical snap lock on the holding shell. In addition, orange luminous shoulder reflector strips are also used, which can be attached to the shoulders as well as side panels. This has further improved the visibility and therefore the safety of inventory workers.
The Ruxton pack has numerous expansion options through a MOLLE-compatible harness (COMOX harness) to attach additional pockets or holsters for radios, tools, water bottles or similar. Thus, all necessary field equipment is always within reach. For tools a special utility bag from WEROCK is very helpful. This has two compartments, one for larger items and one ideal for pens, measuring tapes, flashlight, etc.. So this is optimal for personal must-have equipment. The squad also uses rugged holders for bottles, cans and radios, which are also compatible with the COMOX harness. It is easy to see that the entire outdoor set is highly comfortable, practical, multifunctional and can be customized in many ways.
Rocktab U210: Rugged IT option for forest surveying.
But WEROCK offers more than an innovative computer mount. We are passionate about optimizing the work environment of everyday heroes. Our heroes are not only people like Schäfer and XYZ, but also emergency personnel, paramedics, parcel delivery men, production workers and many more. They all have one thing in common: they need tools they can rely on in their work. We develop rugged tablets, notebooks and handheld devices precisely for such people. They withstand all harsh environments – like working in the forest or in logistics, for example.
The Rocktab U210, for example, is a fully rugged tablet, a reliable companion for on the go. It has been certified according to the IP 65 protection standard as well as the MIL-STD-810G military standard and is thus completely protected from possible damage from the environment. Therefore, the tablet is particularly suitable for harsh working environments in the field. The Rocktab U210 is equipped with a scratch-resistant screen that has been built so ruggedly that the device even exceeds the IK06 impact resistance. The screen is also high-resolution and has a high brightness, so that it continues to work perfectly in the constant sunlight in the light forest. The product’s absolute ruggedness is especially worth mentioning: it even withstands drops from a height of 1.5 meters; in addition, it was subjected to a so-called drum test, in which the tablet had to withstand 40 consecutive drops from a height of 1 meter. Furthermore, the Rocktab U210 is also completely dust and waterproof; it can even withstand a downright rain shower. Together with the touchscreen, which can be operated even in the rain and with gloves, the tablet can very well support our heroes, who are sometimes exposed to bad weather for several hours at a stretch. In addition, the computer can perfectly withstand extremely high and low temperatures from -10°C to +50°C, so that the inventory data can be recorded in the cold winter as well as in the summer heat. The device is also able to withstand the heating effect caused by direct sunlight. Finally, a high total battery capacity ensures a long runtime (up to 10 hours) with just one battery charge. And should it take even longer, the battery can be changed during operation.
With an extensive project like the federal forest inventory, which must be accomplished with highest thoroughness, strictly scientific accuracy and large expenditure, it is important to set also on the correct devices as well as the accessories. Concrete considerations must be made as to which tools and equipment can be used to overcome the unfavorable working conditions in nature and thus proceed as efficiently, error-free and safely as possible. The equipment must at least be able to withstand cold, heat, rain, snow, dust, sunlight, falls and vibrations. In this context, every forest inventory employee who implements the major federal plans directly on site has various options for the design of his personal equipment, but always opts for the highest ruggedness and the best price-performance ratio. The fact that WEROCK products have been chosen by BWI colleagues and support them in their daily demanding data work is of course a great pleasure for us. At the same time, it is also proof that our products are stable and reliable, and that they are very supportive even in extremely harsh forest environments. But we have even more rugged pro-ducts for field workers. Request your quote today and upgrade yourself or your employees!