Forest Soil 4.0


Networked Forest Soil for Sustainable Forestry

Receiving point of wireless data transmission © WZL  

Forest soil is the most important production factor in sustainable forestry. It serves as a plant site, animal habitat, water, nutrient and carbon reservoir and water filter. To protect it and maintain its yield capacity and ecosystem services, the use of smart soil moisture sensors in the forest floor is a promising option. Such sensors provide an overview of the water present in the soil. As a result, water balance regimes can be calculated and changes, including those related to climate change and plant-available water, can be monitored, and recommendations for action can be derived. Furthermore, timber harvesting can be optimized with regard to ecological and economic aspects on the basis of such data. During timber harvesting, soil conditions, soil moisture and machine weight must be coordinated in order to avoid permanent damage to the technical trafficability of skid trails. So far, the soil moisture and thus the trafficability is estimated by the machine operator when reaching a skid trail. A planning tool based on the prevailing soil moisture could enable a soil-friendly operation planning and avoid unnecessary abortions of operations.

Wireless data transmission poses a particularly significant problem when using sensor technology in the forest. In order to make sensor data from the forest and insights gained from it accessible to users in the form of a cloud application, a wireless communication infrastructure is required. Soil moisture sensors using wireless technology are available, but they only work where there is coverage by communication networks, for example LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT. However, such communication networks are often not available in the forest, necessitating the establishment of dedicated local communication networks. Existing radio modules for such networks in Europe rely on frequency bands at around 800 Megahertz and do not achieve practical ranges in the forest. In this project, therefore, radio technology based on LoRa modulation in the lower-frequency ISM band at 169 Megahertz is being developed that will enable data to be transported from the forest to the cloud due to an increase in range. Particular attention is also being paid to reducing the energy requirements of the radio modules to such an extent that battery operation is possible over a period of several years. With radio technology already available for license-free frequency bands, such a solution is not yet feasible.


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