Giants Grove – Data for the Future

Written by Sean

June 23, 2022

The worlds first forest management school was founded in the University of Giessen, the Holy Roman Empire, in 1778. For the majority of those almost 250 years the basic forest management tools were the humble pencil & paper. Data collected in the field was meticulously recorded with such detail and precision that the finished result often looked more like art than a working file to my modern eyes. One of the finest, oldest, and most beautiful of these documents is the Birr Castle Demesne Tree Inventory which is kept safe in the Archives of Birr Castle.

Considering my handwriting, things have luckily changed a lot since then, particularly in recent years. Today the basic tool of forest mapping is the Geographic Information System. Put (very) simply, G.I.S. is a type of database containing geographic data (boundaries, plots, locations, etc.) combined with computer software to analyse and manage that data. Basically, the map and the data are now one document, and although it is not as beautifully presented it is far more efficient, easier to create, simpler to use, and a lot more useful than the paper documents of old.

So, considering the history of such detailed forest mapping in the past at Birr Castle, and the long 1200-year future ahead of the Redwoods at the Giants Grove, we recently decided to completely overhaul and update our GIS using the most modern, advanced, Global Positioning System (GPS) available. Now every Giant’s position in the largest Redwood Forest outside of the United States is accurate to within 2cm. The decision was made as we believed it was essential to provide a strong foundation for all the future data yet to be collected from the Grove.

Right now, individual trees can be assessed and highlighted for management inputs such as fertiliser and vegetation control, or problems can be recorded, measured, and instantly shared from the field to anyone involved. However, the real advantage will be how the current data will be used as a basis in future experiments. For example, the soil will be analysed at regular intervals to see how the Redwoods impact carbon sequestration, microbes, and nutrition, over time. Or the growth rates will be examined to see how the Redwoods respond to the various site types and nurse species influencing them.

Perhaps the most important data will come from studying the effects of climate change, particularly as this is a very real threat to the Redwoods in their native sites. Every little detail of this project will be studied, and the more accurate our information is today, the more accurate and effective our data will be tomorrow. Hopefully it can make a difference.

Of course there’s always a down-side, and unfortunately now anyone visiting their tree at Giants Grove will find that it’s coordinates have changed as the old system was only accurate to within 4 meters on a cloudy day. But don’t worry, the new system will allow you to enter the coordinates into Google Earth, and you can be directed straight to within 2cm of your tree.

Young Redwood forests are very rare, not many people have seen one, so come visit Giants Grove.

The Giants Grove Project is an Partnership between Birr Castle Estate and Crann – Trees for Ireland , it is managed by Ecoplan Forestry. It is the largest Sequoia / Redwood forest outside of the United States.

Read the Latest News to keep up-to-date with this incredible project, or become a member of Crann and read all about this and so much more in the  Crann Magazine. Trees are still available to Sponsor in this forever forest of Giants.

Tags: Birr Castle, crann, forest inventory, Forest mapping, giant redwood, sequoia

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