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Author: Daniel Small, Assistant Forestry Consultant

QGIS is a mapping tool that we use at Lockhart Garratt to help with all aspects of the business, it could be; an application map for a felling licence, a photo location map for a Landscape Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA), a tree location plan or a phase one survey map.

It allows us to digitally and visually display information for our clients. We can do this by using QGIS to create layers of lines, points or polygons over a base map. We can then add labels, legends, scale-bars and symbols to “beautify” the map and make it easy to read.

Clear-fell area and access shown by creating lines and polygons

We can use QGIS in conjunction with our GPS systems to create highly accurate maps and digital files which help save time, and therefore (client’s) money. An example of this would be the creation of a planting contract map. Using our GPS technology we accurately mapped an area of trees to be clear felled and restocked. From this we were able to calculate the exact number of trees required for the planting, meaning no over/under ordering. We then created a digital file that could be transferred to QGIS and used to produce a visual map showing the location of the planting area, access routes and any health and safety considerations. This map is clear and concise which allows the reader to easily understand the information on the map, as opposed to in accurate hand drawn maps with not so neat handwriting. Compared to non-digital techniques this way of mapping has considerable accuracy and efficiency benefits.

The real Bonus of using QGIS is that it is Free! Similar programs are being retailed at £1000.00 for an annual subscription, but QGIS runs solely on donations. It was first released in 2009 and since then it has been maintained and developed by a team of expert volunteers who regularly release updates and bug fixes. It has now been translated in to 48 different languages and is used in academic and professional contexts.

QGIS can be downloaded from their website, where they also have detailed training programmes that help you get to grips with the technology.

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