FAO in Bangladesh

New technological advances for forest monitoring being operationalized by the Bangladesh Forest Department


Highlight: The Bangladesh Forest Department is establishing permanent forest inventory plots all over the country using new technologies

 The Bangladesh Forest Department, with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and in collaboration with universities, is finalizing the field data collection for the Bangladesh Forest Inventory. With the objective to re-locate the field inventory plots and monitor forest changes over time, the latest technological advances are used.

Effective monitoring depends wholly on the ability to re-locate the exact centre of the plots after several years between visits so that changes can be accurately recorded.   

Several approaches are used to re-locate the plots, such as recording the geographic coordinates of the plot centre using handheld GPS. Additionally, certain reference objects are noted to help field teams identify the plot in future visits. Finally, metal bars are inserted in the plot centre which can be found later using a metal detector. However, these efforts do not guarantee successfully re-locating the plot. For example, it’s possible that locations are not recorded precisely enough using handheld GPS, and reference objects and metal bars can be removed.

The Bangladesh Forest Department overcomes these challenges by using differential global positioning system (DGPS) technology to obtain cm-level geographic coordinates of the plot centre. This work is novel in its application for a national level forest inventory. It greatly reduces the risk of not being able to re-locate plots even after constant changes due to human and environmental factors. Zaheer Iqbal, National Project Coordinator, at Bangladesh Forest Department, highlighted the importance of re-locating precisely field inventory plots to be able to monitor changes over time.

In addition to DGPS, radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are also inserted into reference object trees. The chips can be scanned with a handheld scanner for instant identification of the tree in future inventories, providing yet another method to help identify the plot and its characteristics.

Implementation of DGPS and RFID chip technologies on plots has already started in the largest mangrove forest in the world – the Sundarbans – beginning in February 2018. Currently, 63 plots have been visited so far by trained personnel, including foresters from the Forest Department.  This program is implemented with the overall objectives to support effective forest management policy and increase capacity of decision-making to address climate change adaptation and mitigation in forestry.

Rajib Mahamud, National Forest Inventory consultant at FAO Bangladesh said “The use of advanced technologies such as DGPS helps Bangladesh Forest Department to build sustainable forest monitoring”.