Articles - Managing Forests with Children's Play Bricks


Managing forests with children's play bricks 

Pascal Coulon

Children’s building bricks have spanned the generations and are ever popular. They are one of the most successful examples of open architectures ever. No matter the colour, the size or the shape, they work together and represent interoperability at its best.

In partnership with Forestry Commission England (FCE) SCISYS has been using an open approach to better manage the woodlands. SCISYS will be presenting this approach at the upcoming Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) #DataMash.

This post addresses the key elements of GI architecture and governance. Specifically the implementation of an open spatial architecture, including:

• Use of open standards allowing a plug and play architecture.  Components can be replaced as service requirements evolve
• Use of Open Source products. Reducing the initial investment and strengthening the use of Open Standards.
• Decoupling business logic from the client tier. Thus reducing dependencies on parts of the solution.

FCE is a non-ministerial government department within Defra. It is responsible for the protection and expansion of forests and woodlands in England. The organisation uses several spatially enabled applications which deliver its services internally and directly to its customers.

The Felling Licence Application Manager (FLAM) platform is a key service for FCE.  It enables the proactive management of felling licences across England, as well as the integration of felling licence applications and related spatial operations.  These relate to capturing felling boundaries using web based plug-in free spatial editing tools.


FLAM currently delivers one element of the Forestry Commission’s regulatory requirements. It however forms a central part in enabling the building block for a wider regulatory hub within FCE. Key to doing this was enabling extensibility and interoperability at an early stage. These elements are central components of the enterprise vision and strong governance ensures they are followed.

In parallel Defra, and its wider family, has an ambitious data sharing programme.  This spans many aspects.  One central tenet is the management and availability of spatial datasets across organisations. The FLAM solution is designed with these wider objectives in mind. As such the solution utilises an Open Architecture approach by design.



To achieve these goals the solution makes use of Cartosys. Cartosys is a configurable OSGeo based web enabled Geographic Content Management System (GCMS).  It allows users to cost effectively create and share geospatial data, services, maps and applications. To do this it offers a suite of spatially enabled modules.  When combined these allow internal and external users to collaborate through the map.  Cartosys uses open standards from the Open Geospatuial Consortium (OGC).

For FCE Cartosys simplified the set up and administration of the service. This included:

• the creation of a spatially enabled application
• the publishing and access control to FCE spatial data,
• the integration of 3rd party spatial data,
• the delivery of spatially enabled reporting

FLAM is delivered as SaaS using the Amazon Web Service platform, which further enhances the cost effective nature of the approach. This for example enables it to seamlessly handle the irregular usage pattern associated with tree felling.


Click here to learn more about Cartosys.

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