Map Analysis and Modeling in Forestry’s Future:

…where we are headed and how we can get there


Plenary paper presented at Esri Forestry GIS Solutions Conference, May 1-3, 2012, Redlands, CA


Presentation by Joseph K. Berry


Most of the GIS’s recent growth has been in its capabilities as a “technical tool” for corralling vast amounts of spatial data and providing near instantaneous access to remote sensing images, GPS navigation, interactive maps, asset management records, geo-queries and awesome displays.  In just forty years, GIS has morphed from boxes of cards passed through a window to a megabuck mainframe computer, to today’s sizzle of a 3D fly-through of terrain anywhere in the world with back-dropped imagery and semi-transparent map layers draped on top— all pushed from the cloud to a GPS enabled tablet or smart phone.  What a ride!  However, GIS as an “analytical tool” hasn’t experienced the same meteoric rise— in fact it might be argued that the analytic side of GIS has somewhat stalled over the last decade.  But the future of GIS in forestry is moving from a “down the hall and to the right” specialist’s role providing mapped data, to a broader and more active role providing spatial information through analysis and modeling that directly interacts with research, policy formation, planning and management decisions.  The shifting emphasis from data–centric tools for mensuration (Where is What) to application-specific constructs of prescriptive mapping (Why, So What and What If) infuses consideration of geographic patterns and relationships within problem-solving contexts.  The paradigm shift replaces spatially-aggregated tools and models that assume uniform or random distribution of typical conditions in geographic space, with spatial reasoning and analytical procedures that capitalize on the variation within and among map variables.  The result is a “map-ematical” structure that enables resource professionals from various disciplines to better understand and communicate complex spatial interplay of edaphic, topographic, biological, ecological, environmental, economic and social considerations.  This paper describes a comprehensive framework for grid-based map analysis and modeling concepts and procedures as direct spatial extensions of traditional mathematics and statistics enabling individuals with minimal or no GIS background to develop spatial reasoning skills—thinking with maps. 


(Presentation materials and further references are posted at




Presentation Handout – presentation description and references

Presentation PowerPoint PowerPoint with instructor notes and links to online reading by slide# (standard .ppt version, 6.0MB; wide screen sRGB video mode .pptx version of the PowerPoint)

Video of Presentation – streaming video of live presentation (39 minutes)

                        Streaming Video                                                 PowerPoint

…download and run companion slides in separate window for improved graphics; advance slides with presenter.


Online Further Readings:


-         Making a Case for SpatialSTEM: Spatial Considerations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education white paper describing a framework for grid-based map analysis and modeling concepts and procedures as direct spatial extensions of traditional mathematics and statistics.

-         SpatialSTEM: Extending Traditional Mathematics and Statistics to Grid-based Map Analysis and Modeling white paper describing an innovative approach for teaching map analysis and modeling fundamentals within a mathematical/statistical context

-         An Analytical Framework for GIS Modeling white paper presenting a conceptual framework for map analysis and GIS Modeling

-         GIS Modeling and Analysisbook chapter on grid-based map analysis and modeling

-         A Brief History and Probable Future of Geotechnology white paper on the evolution and future directions of GIS technology

-        Beyond Mapping III, an online book containing Introduction, 29 Chapters and Epilog as a compilation of the popular Beyond Mapping columns published in GeoWorld magazine from 1989 through present, BASIS, Fort Collins, Colorado, 2012. J.K. Berry.


SpatialSTEM Framework Listing of MapCalc and Spatial Analyst Operations:


-         Math/Stat Classification of Spatial Analysis and Spatial Statistics Operations (MapCalc by Basis) white paper listing MapCalc operations by traditional mathematics and statistics categories

-         Math/Stat Classification of Spatial Analysis and Spatial Statistics Tools (Spatial Analyst by Esri) white paper listing ESRI Spatial Analyst module operations by traditional mathematics and statistics categories

-         Cross-reference of Grid-based Map Analysis Operations for MapCalc and Spatial Analyst listing cross-referencing MapCalc and Spatial Analyst organized by five fundamental map analysis classes.