Save the Redwoods League Provides Grant for Redwood Research in Sonoma County

SRL_logoSave the Redwoods League – through its conservation planning program – has provided funding for redwood related plot data collection and analysis in Sonoma County. The funding will result in the establishment of 12 permanent plots in redwood stands across the county. Sampled stands will be selected to represent a range of moisture regimes where redwood occurs in the county—from stands along the relatively moist coastline to the relatively drier pockets of redwood forests of eastern Sonoma County. The permanent plots will be established and designed with the objective of periodic re-sampling in mind. Plots will be 400 square meters (20m x 20m). Sampling will result in an inventory of all plants in the plot, and woody vegetation will be measured.

Data from the permanent plots will be used to monitor trends in redwood forest composition over time—which is important for tracking the effects of climate change on our region’s most iconic habitat type. The plot data will also be used to accurately characterize redwood forests in the Sonoma County vegetation and habitat map. These data will augment a growing body of vegetation plot data in Sonoma County being collected by the California Department of Fish and Game’s Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program, the California Native Plant Society, Pepperwood Foundation, Prunuske Chatham, Inc., Sonoma State University (Dr. Matthew Clark), and the University of Maryland (Dr. Ralph Dubayah). These data will help to support the ongoing development of Sonoma County’s vegetation and habitat map.

The permanent redwood plots will provide for a better understanding of redwood vegetation associations, their biotic components, and their patterns and distributions in Sonoma County. The sampling, classification, and mapping of redwood vegetation will raise awareness of their importance and rarity, identify threats to their existence, and allow for conservation of biodiversity at the “multi‐species” landscape level. Establishing a vegetation sampling array provides a scientific baseline for assessing and monitoring the overstory and understory components of redwood forests in the region. Future resampling will allow for the detection and mitigation of changes in redwood forests that may result from climate change. This project will also support other projects in the county aimed at demonstrating the value of the county’s forests to carbon sequestration and other reductions in greenhouse gases.

For more information contact:
Julie Evens, California Native Plant Society
Lisa Micheli, Pepperwood Preserve
Mark Tukman, Tukman Geospatial LLC
Tom Robinson, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

Dr. Jordan Golinkoff Joins Veg. Mapping & Remote Sensing Advisory Committee

The Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program is thrilled to welcome Dr. Jordan Golinkoff as the newest member of our Vegetation Mapping and Remote Sensing Advisory Committee.

Dr. Jordan Golinkoff

The committee advises the mapping team on state-of-the art mapping techniques and methods. Dr. Golinkoff is an expert at using LiDAR to help map, measure, and manage forestland in Northern California. A Forest Carbon Analyst for the Conservation Fund, Dr. Golinkoff will add to the Advisory Committee’s LiDAR and forest mapping expertise.

Dr. Golinkoff is one of the nation’s leading experts on forest carbon project development, monitoring, and verification. He joined The Conservation Fund in 2005 and has extensive experience in forest inventory and projection methodologies, statistical analysis, and carbon accounting practices and standards compliance. A trained forester and Climate Action Reserve and California Air Resources Board approved verifier, Jordan is responsible for forest inventory design and carbon offset registration for The Conservation Fund, the nation’s largest seller of verified forest carbon offsets. Jordan has a B.A. in Computer Science from Yale University, a Masters of Forestry from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in forest mensuration and biometrics from the University of Montana.

LiDAR and Environmental Data Forum

On May 21st, the Open Space District and the Sonoma County Water Agency hosted the LiDAR and Environmental Data Forum.  The forum included a number of mapping and remote sensing experts to discuss the benefits and applications of LiDAR and other high-resolution environmental data products being developed for the Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program. Speakers discussed LiDAR’s role in providing next generation data products for engineering, feature extraction, vegetation mapping, and land management.

The table below lists the speakers and provides links to their presentations. For general information on LiDAR’s benefits, visit this blog post.

Speaker Bio Presentation Link
Tom Robinson, Conservation Planner – SCAOSD Mr. Robinson is project manager for the Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR program. Tom has many years of conservation planning, GIS, and mapping experience. Overview of the Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program
James Young, Senior Manager – Aerometric Mr. Young has worked with LiDAR since the technology's infancy in the mid-1990s. He now manages all of Aerometric's LiDAR production and has worked on more than 500 LiDAR projects. LiDAR Introduction, Specs, and Terms (Mr. Young also wrote LiDAR for Dummies)
Jeremy Kobor, Senior Hydrologist – O'Conner Environmental Mr. Kobor is a registered geologist and holds and MS in geology. He is an expert in the development and application of numerical hydrologic, hydraulic, and sediment transport models and has experience in geomorphic mapping. Hydrologic Mapping and Modeling in Sonoma County Using LiDAR
Dr. Matthew Clark, Associate Professor – Sonoma State University Dr. Clark is an expert in remote sensing of land cover and forest properties. Using LiDAR to Estimate Carbon Stored in Tropical Rainforests
Laurel Marcus, Executive Director – California Land Stewardship Institute Ms. Marcus has over 30 years of experience in watershed, river and wetland restoration work in California. She is the author of the Fish Friendly Farming Environmental (FFF) Environmental Certification Program (also known as the Napa Green Land Certification) that she directs in seven counties for over 15 different crops and grazing land. Using LiDAR for Geomorphic and Riparian Mapping on the Napa River
Devin Kelley, Project Director – Photoscience Mr. Kelley is a certified photogrammetrist with extensive experience using LiDAR data and integrating LiDAR into a photogrammetric workflow. LiDAR for Engineering Applications
Matthew Boyd, Chief Technology Officer & Co-CEO – WSI Mr. Boyd is responsible for research & development, procurement and implementation of airborne remote sensing technology at WSI. Since 2004, Mr. Boyd has developed the company's LiDAR program. An Overview of LiDAR Feature Extraction This file is 2 Gigabytes!
Dr. Jacob Strunk, Aerometric Dr. Strunk's research and applied work focus on using LiDAR to assist in forest monitoring and forest inventory. Forest Inventory & Monitoring with LiDAR

LiDAR for Sonoma County

Benefits and Applications
The benefits of LiDAR for land and water management, planning and engineering are wide ranging.  The following discussion demonstrates some of these benefits as they apply to Sonoma County.

Forest Management and Measuring Forest Carbon
forest_managementLiDAR data is used to create automated forest structure metrics, such as tree height and canopy density.  Forest structure metrics can be combined with forest plot data to produce accurate models of forest biomass and aboveground carbon sequestration. Read this 2010 New York Times article titled “New Map Shows Measuring Carbon in Amazon Is Feasible.”  See the videos at the bottom of this post for more on using LiDAR for forest management, forest inventory and biomass mapping.

Vegetation and Habitat Mapping
veg_mapOne of the main products of the Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR program will be a fine scale vegetation and habitat map of the entire county.  Mapping vegetation involves developing a classification of the county’s vegetation types, interpreting aerial photographs and imagery using human interpreters and computer algorithms, and verifying vegetation characteristics in the field.  LiDAR data is extremely useful for vegetation & habitat mapping, as well as riparian area mapping and crop type mapping.

PG&E and other utilities periodically collect LiDAR data for their transmission lines.  One major application of this data is to target danger trees for removal.  If a danger tree falls in the direction of a high voltage line, it could hit and damage the line or start a wildfire.  Danger trees are identified by combining LiDAR derived tree height & location information with LiDAR derived line height & location information.

Floodplain Mapping, Flood and Tsunami Inundation Modeling
floodingHighly accurate digital elevation data is a prerequisite for accurate floodplain mapping and flood inundation modeling (from river flooding, tsunami, or storm surge).  High resolution LiDAR-based DEMS greatly improve the accuracy of flood mapping.

Using LiDAR data, a team of researchers from the College of Staten Island successfully predicted coastal inundation extent resulting from Hurricane Sandy.  An article in the February 13, 2013 New Yorker Magazine states “The C.S.I. study had predicted the extent of flooding uncannily-the projected flood zone proved to be accurate to the street, and almost to the house.”  Click here for the New Yorker article.

Read this article about flood management and planning in the Red River Basin of the North Dakota.

Calculating Solar Power Potential for a Roof Top or Land Parcel
SCEIP (the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program) has funded 1750 residential and 57 commercial installations of solar energy since it started in the late 2000’s.  It provides low cost loans that pay for the system; the homeowner or business owner pays the loan back as part of their property taxes.  LiDAR data provides very accurate roof pitch and roof aspect information for entire areas, as well as information that can be used to predict roof shadedness.  The City and County of LA’s Solar Map and Green Planning Tool is underpinned by LiDAR data.  Estimating solar potential of roofs and vacant lots using LiDAR data has become a big business.  Read the May, 2011 article from Forbes Magazine titled “How Much Energy Can Your Roof Generate.”   See the second half of the article for the LiDAR related discussion.  New York City has also recently collected LiDAR data and used the data to map rooftop solar potential.  This effort is described in a New York Times article where the NYC Deputy Mayor of Operations is quoted as saying, “the quality of the LiDAR information is so remarkable that it will much more rapidly unlock usable sites.”

Precision Agriculture and Crop Planning
precision_agLiDAR is used to create very accurate DEMs and contours that characterize the landscape in a much more refined and detailed way than 10-meter USGS DEMs.  The ability to map micro topography is important for crop planning.  For example, vineyard managers use topographic maps (and other data) to divide a vineyard into zones based on physical site properties, climate, and soil type.  LiDAR data will produce far more accurate depictions of topography than what is available today.

Elevation Contours and DEMs
Digital Elevation Models (DEMS) are produced from LiDAR data at a much higher resolution than USGS DEMS.  LiDAR produces elevation models of the terrain at ground level as well as at the highest surface (buildings & tree canopy).  LiDAR data is capable of producing 1 foot elevation contours.

Potential beneficiaries of high resolution DEMs and 1 foot contours in Sonoma County include city and county planning departments, land managers, farmers, builders, and engineering firms.

Monitoring the Effects of Sea Level Rise
sea_levelSea level rise will affect Sonoma County along the Pacific Coast and in areas adjacent to the tidal wetlands of Southern Sonoma County.  LiDAR data (combined with accurate bathymetric data and advanced modeling techniques) produces very accurate projections of coastal inundation as a result of storm surge and/or sea level rise.  County planners and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) will benefit from LiDAR data when planning for the effects of sea level rise on the Sonoma County baylands and on Highway 37 in southern Sonoma County.

Landslide & Fault Detection and Mapping
Since LiDAR penetrates the tree canopy, creating a very detailed model of the bare earth surface, LiDAR is a valuable tool for mapping faults, landslides, and debris flows – especially those obscured by vegetation.  LiDAR is also used to produce landslide susceptibility maps.  See the video at the end of this post from the Southern California Earthquake Center – it provides an overview of LiDAR and how it is used to identify and map earthquake faults.

Engineering Planning
eng_planningLiDAR produces very detailed contours and elevation models useful for engineering planning.  Uses include transmission corridor and pipeline planning, storm water modeling, drainage analysis, cut and fill analysis, master planning, grading, erosion control, and roadway design.  LiDAR is very effective for and for evaluating the relative merits of alternative sites for a project.

LiDAR is used in numerous water related engineering planning activities such as diversion channel routing, hydraulic analysis, flood control impoundment planning, cut and fill analysis, and 3D project visualization.  High resolution topographic data (usually derived from LiDAR) is necessary for flood inundation mapping.  Dam breach analysis and resulting flood inundation mapping often relies on LiDAR data, which provides much more accurate results than analysis using 10 meter USGS DEMs.

Pervious/Impervious Surface Mapping
LiDAR data aids in the effective mapping of pervious and impervious areas across a landscape.  Maps of pervious and impervious surfaces are useful for managing and modeling stormwater runoff, hydrologic modeling, habitat modeling, and urban planning.

Fuel Mapping and Fire Hazard Modeling

Because it depicts the forest in three dimensions, LiDAR data improves the accuracy of fuel maps and increases the accuracy of fire risk and fire behavior models.  LiDAR is increasingly used by state and federal agencies to assist in mapping fuels, fire risk, and fire behavior.

Videos that Demonstrate Some of LiDAR’s Benefits

Watch the ESRI Video Below, entitled “Improving Operational Planning Using Forest Inventories and GIS”

The video below from the Southern California Earthquake Center provides an overview of LiDAR and how it is used to identify and map earthquake faults.

Watch the video below from the United States Forest Service titled “Modeling Biomass and Canopy Fuel Attributes Using LiDAR”

Watch the “Introduction to LiDAR” video below from ASPRS (American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing)

Other LiDAR-Related Links

Kick Off Meeting

The Vegetation Mapping Program kick off meeting was held on December 13th at the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District office in Santa Rosa.  Thanks for the great turnout! The meeting provided an opportunity to get the word out on the mapping program and to hear ideas and input from map stakeholders and potential end users.  Tom Robinson, the mapping program manager, outlined the goals of the program, introduced the mapping team, discussed program development/fundraising, and reviewed ways to get involved.  Mark Tukman, the mapping team project manager, presented the Vegetation Mapping and Remote Sensing Advisory Committee and reviewed the technical mapping approach.  A question and answer session followed the presentation.

The kickoff was attended by numerous stakeholders and vegetation and habitat map end users. Attendees represented numerous groups and organizations, including the following:

  • Audubon Canyon Ranch
  • Baseline Consulting
  • Botanical and Ecological Consulting
  • California Coastal Conservancy
  • California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
  • California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • City of Santa Rosa
  • County of Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Department
  • Open Space District Citizen’s Advisory Committee
  • LandPaths
  • Marin County Parks and Open Space Department
  • NOAA – National Marine Fisheries
  • Ocean Song Farm & Wilderness
  • Pepperwood Preserve
  • Planet Horticulture
  • Private Landowners
  • Prunuske Chatham Inc.
  • San Francisco Bay Joint Venture
  • San Francisco Estuary Institute
  • Sonoma County Regional Parks
  • Sonoma County Water Agency
  • Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
  • Sonoma Ecology Center
  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Sonoma State University
  • United Winegrowers for Sonoma County
  • Wine Country Group Real Estate
  • Environmental Planning and Engineering Firms

The slides from our kick off presentation are available here. Audio of the meeting and video of the accompanying slides is provided below via YouTube. Notes from the question and answer session can be viewed here.

Sonoma County Imagery

Sonoma County has numerous dates of countywide imagery available for public use. The vegetation mapping program will benefit greatly from the imagery throughout our mapping process. All image services are hosted by by the Sonoma County Information Services Department; some are also hosted by the University of California. Thanks to Tim Pudoff and his team at Sonoma County ISD and Dr. Maggi Kelly, Nancy Thomas and the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) at the University of California, Berkeley! Image services can be accessed using ESRI products, such as ArcMap and ArcGIS Online.

Image Services for Countywide Imagery:

To add these services in ArcMap, go to “Add Data from ArcGIS Online” and search for “Sonoma County Imagery”. Or send a membership request to join the Sonoma County Imagery Group to make accessing these services easy from within ESRI products. The gallery below shows the current set of image services available in the Sonoma County Imagery Group.

Sonoma County Imagery Group Gallery

Vegetation Mapping and Remote Sensing Advisory Committee

The Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping Program is excited to announce our Vegetation Mapping and Remote Sensing Advisory Committee!  This committee will provide expert technical advice to the District and mapping team throughout the course of the project.  Our committee members have deep expertise in varied fields including remote sensing, botany, ecology, wildlife, carbon mapping, forestry, and GIS.  We are thrilled to have such a high caliber group of advisers to guide us as we map the vegetation and habitats of Sonoma County.  The district and the mapping team is in the process of forming other committees and working groups that will provide specific guidance and expertise;  these committees will be introduced as they are established.  The table below lists the Vegetation Mapping and Remote Sensing Advisory committee members, their affiliations, and their particular areas of expertise.

Committee Member Affiliation Related Expertise/Experience
Dr. Matthew Clark Associate Professor, Sonoma State University Remote sensing of land cover and forest properties; multispectral, hyperspectral, lidar and SAR; GIS analysis and modeling; landscape ecology and conservation.
Charles Convis Conservation Program Coordinator, ESRI Involved in vegetation mapping programs (CNPS, NPS).  Upcoming Conservation Planning textbook.  Expertise in web-based mapping and cartography for conservation.
Michael Fizgibbon Chief Technology Officer, PRBO Conservation Science Web application development to deliver extensive geographic & database content at PRBO (CADC). Core product development and custom application design and implementation at GIS software companies (ESRI, Autodesk, Geogroup).
Karen Gaffney Manager, Conservation Planning Program, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District Ecology, Riparian Ecosystems, Invasive Plants, Ecological Restoration, Watershed Assessment & Planning, Regional Integrated Planning.
Dr. Jordan Golinkoff Forest Carbon Analyst, The Conservation Fund Dr. Golinkoff is an expert at using LiDAR to help map, measure, and manage forestland in Northern California. Dr. Golinkoff, a Forest Carbon Analyst for the Conservation Fund, uses his forestry and mapping expertise to help the Conservation Fund monitor and value the amount of carbon sequestered in its forest lands.
Kass Green President, Kass Green and Associates Remote sensing methods development, program management, accuracy assessment.  Recent high resolution vegetation mapping projects: Grand Canyon Nat’l Park, Nat’l parks of Hawaii and American Samoa, benthic habitats of Texas, Horry County, S.C.
Dr. Todd Keeler-Wolf Senior Vegetation Ecologist, Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program, Biogeographic Data Branch, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Dr. Keeler-Wolf is an expert in classification and mapping of California vegetation, leads the vegetation program in CDFW, and has developed detailed vegetation maps and data driven classification systems for large areas of California.   These products are used in various ways for resource and conservation assessment.
Dr. Maggi Kelly Professor, UC Berkeley Remote sensing, GIS, vegetation mapping, webGIS, environmental monitoring, participatory GIS.  Director of the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF).
Jennifer Michaud Wildlife Biologist, Prunuske Chatam, Inc. Sonoma County-focused native fish and wildlife research, monitoring, and restoration; habitat assessment and management planning for parks, including Taylor Mtn. and Sonoma Mtn., and for watershed stewardship programs.
John Nickerson Director of Forestry Mexico Project, Climate Action Reserve; Senior Researcher/Project Developer with Spatial Informatics Group Managed the stakeholder work group that developed the policies for the California compliance protocol and principal author of the same protocol now adopted by the State of California.  Expertise in vegetation mapping, forest inventory, growth and yield analysis, forest valuation, carbon assessments, and landscape planning.  Develops analytical tools to support inventory and carbon analysis.  Currently working with an international stakeholder working group to identify policies for the develop of a forest carbon protocol in Mexico.
Carlos Ramirez Vegetation Mapping and Inventory Group Leader, USDA Forest Service Region 5 Remote Sensing Laboratory Coordinates the cooperative vegetation mapping and monitoring program between the USDA Forest Service and CAL FIRE.  Expertise in vegetation mapping, forest inventory, remote sensing, and GIS.
Tom Robinson Conservation Planner, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District Prioritization methods for open space acquisition and management; landscape ecology and GIS applications; analysis and mapping for local conservation and recreation plans.
Mark Rosenberg Research Program Specialist, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP) Coordinates the cooperative vegetation mapping and monitoring program between CAL FIRE and the USDA Forest Service.  Expertise in vegetation mapping, forest inventory, remote sensing, GIS, habitat modeling and fire behavior. Develops analytical tools in support of forest and rangeland assessments, pre-fire planning, and renewable energy development.
Joan Schwan Vegetation Ecologist, Prunuske Chatham, Inc. Sonoma County-focused native plant research, monitoring, and restoration; vegetation mapping and management planning for parks, including Taylor Mtn. and Sonoma Mtn., and for watershed stewardship programs
Mark Tukman Tukman Geospatial LLC Vegetation Mapping and GIS. Large vegetation mapping projects including Grand Canyon National Park, numerous CA National Forests, and Horry County, SC.

Sonoma County Serpentine

Serpentine communities occur in scattered areas across Sonoma County. These communities support a number of rare and endangered plant species.  From a vegetation mapping perspective, these are important areas.  Because thesy are small, geographically isolated, and occur uncommonly across the County’s landscape, it will be important to clearly identify these areas and compile existing field data for them before our mapping work begins.  Serpentine areas on the North Coast have been studied significantly in the past 75 years, and much is known about their composition. In the April, 2009 issue of the Journal Fremontia (California Native Plant Society), Roger Raiche provides a great botanical profile of the Cedars, the county’s largest serpentine area.

The serpentine areas of Sonoma County are associated with several soil types.  Among these are soils from the Henneke Series, soils from the Montara  series, and soils from the Huse series.

The interactive map below shows the 1997 Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) soils data overlaid on Bing aerial imagery.  Pan and zoom to move around on the map.  Access the “Bookmarks” to navigate to the major serpentine areas in the county.  If you click “View Larger Map,” a larger map will open in with more functionality.  This map’s default extent is an area of serpentine soils (mainly the Henneke series) and vegetation north of Occidental near the Bohemian Highway.

View Larger Map

Historical Wieslander Vegetation Maps

In the 1920s and 30s, forester A.E. Weislander led an effort to map vegetation across the State of California.  Though never completed, this effort resulted in set of maps, photos, and vegetation plot data for numerous areas throughout California.  This data set provides the best available snapshot of California vegetation during the early part of the 20th century.

The Wieslander Vegetation Type Mapping (VTM) Project, a project conducted jointly between UC Berkeley and UC Davis, has resulted in the digitization of the Wieslander plot data, photos and many of the vegetation map sheets.  The VTM project was jointly funded by the US Department of Agriculture and UC Berkeley.  Much of the GIS work for the Wieslander VTM project was undertaken by Dr. Maggi Kelley’s laboratory at UC Berkeley.  Dr. Kelley serves as an Advisory Committee member for our Vegetation Mapping Program here in Sonoma County.

Example of a Wieslander Vegetation Map from Sonoma Valley

The Wieslander maps are of interest to the Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping Program because – once the Sonoma County map is produced – the Wieslander maps can be compared to the new Sonoma County Vegetation map to see how vegetation has changed in the past 70 years or so.

Wieslander plot data is limited to only 13 available plots in southern Sonoma County.  But Wieslander vegetation maps exist for a number of areas within the county, including the far northern section of the county, and the southeastern part including the southern Mayacamas Mountains.

In addition to digitizing the vegetation related data and photos, the University of California also has captured digital transcripts of interviews conducted with A.E. Weislander in 1985. These are fascinating to read.

To download the map or the plot data for Sonoma County, go to and click “Data by County.”


Welcome to the Sonoma County Vegetation and Habitat Mapping blog!  This blog will facilitate an ongoing discussion between the mapping team, the map’s stakeholders, and end users of the maps.  We will also use this forum to make our community aware of program related events and milestones.