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Searching for sandalwood

FPC staff measuring sandalwood in the Rangelands
29 May 2018

A recent trial run by the Forest Products Commission could revolutionise the way we search for sandalwood in the Rangelands.

Manager Strategic Planning and Aboriginal Engagement Ben Sawyer said that in the past searching for sandalwood and undertaking sandalwood inventory involved FPC staff traversing the outback by car, motor-bike or foot in remote areas where it is known to grow well, a time-consuming process with potential hazards.

To investigate an alternative to this method the FPC has commenced a trial using remote sensing at Gindalbie Station, a site approximately 50 kilometres outside of Kalgoorlie.

“Previous remote sensing trials have not been able to differentiate sandalwood from other grey-leaved shrubs. We hope that with recent advances in technology it will now be successful,” Mr. Sawyer said.

The trial involves attaching sensors, set to a specific bandwidth of the electromagnetic spectrum best able to detect reflectance specific to sandalwood, to a plane flying at 5000 feet.

“The aim is that the sensors will create an image at such a high resolution and capture reflectance beyond what the eye can see, that we should be able to distinguish WA sandalwood from other vegetation.  This will allow us to better inform future sustainable yield estimates,” Mr. Sawyer said.

Dedicated FPC staff have accurately located and recorded the location of many sandalwood and ‘trick trees,’ as part of the ground truthing portion of the trial.

“The ground truthing data will assist machine learning techniques and determine whether sandalwood can now be detected remotely,” Mr. Sawyer said.