Forest

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Logo. Feature : Forest
One example for Feature : Forest
Description
How to describe tree-covered areas like forest or woodland. There are some tagging approaches. Describing the meaning of tags natural=wood and landuse=forest.
Tags

A forest or woodland is an area covered by trees. Two different tags are used to describe this: natural=wood and landuse=forest. There are major differences in the way these are used by some OpenStreetMap mappers.

Situation is complicated as different people advocate different, conflicting tagging schemes.

Depending on region there may or may not be difference between areas tagged as natural=wood and landuse=forest. Difference, if any, depends on who mapped the area. As result nearly all data consumers treat both natural=wood and landuse=forest as synonymous tags for a forested area.

This problem is explained below.

Which tag should be used?

The differences in tagging woodland essentially result from different approaches to document human management and use of woodland areas. The following approaches are advocated by different groups:

Approach 1

  • natural=wood is used to mark areas covered by trees.
  • landuse=forest is used to mark areas of land managed for forestry.
  • woodland=virgin is used to mark areas of virgin woodland unmanaged by man. This is only used rarely (less than 100 instances in database [1]).

Approach 2

Note that visiting location is not enough, checking whatever land is managed for forestry requires more extensive research and many people marking forests are not interested in spending time on tagging distinction between managed and unmanaged forest.

Tag managed=* is very rarely used (less than 6500 instances in database [2])

Approach 3

  • landuse=forest is used for maintained or managed woodland. This approach views most woodland as managed or maintained especially in areas such as Europe.
  • natural=wood is used for ancient or virgin woodland, with no forestry use.

Approach 4

  • wood=yes is used to mark the presence of trees. Use of wood=* is deprecated for indicating vegetation types but wood=yes is still used. It is however fairly uncommon (less than 1000 instances in database [3]).
  • natural=wood is used to mark areas of unmanaged forest. It implies wood=yes
  • landuse=forest is used to mark areas of managed forest. It implies wood=yes

Approach 5

  • landcover=trees is used to mark the presence of trees. It does not imply the use nor origin of the trees. Note that this tag is rarely used tag for wooded areas (less than 65000 instances in database [4]) compared to overall use of natural=wood and landuse=forest tags.

Approach 6

Does not attempt to give meaning to differences between these tags. Typically used during mapping from aerial images, or during casual survey without extensive research of a given forest.

Additional tags may be used to clarify purpose, forestry status etc.

Note that this approach is used by nearly all data consumers, including Standard tile layer[1].

Discussion

Advantages of each approach

  • Approach 1
    • Tags appear consistent – having trees on is not a "land use".
    • Does not require the tagger to make a distinction between managed and virgin woodland, which can be near impossible to make even for someone surveying the area.
    • Allows for tagging of areas of commercial forestry which are not currently wooded (landuse=forest + natural=scrub).
    • Is more consistent with tagging of other features such as reservoirs, which are tagged natural=water, along with their land use.
  • Approach 2
    • Mapping forests does not require the tagger to make a distinction between managed and virgin woodland
    • Information whatever forest is managed is stored in tag separate from natural=wood and landuse=forest
  • Approach 3
    • More commonly used after a bot was used to retag existing woodland this way.
  • Approach 4
    • As for Approach 1
    • Uses only existing tags.
    • Existing tagging largely retains its meaning.
    • Further landuses might be specified to distinguish between forest managed for decorative/leisure use, lumber/pulp production, or ecological improvement.
  • Approach 5
    • Simple
    • No need to identify use nor origin of the trees.
    • Where known the use and/or origin of the trees can be tagged.
  • Approach 6
    • Mapping forests does not require the tagger to make a distinction between managed and virgin woodland

Disadvantages of each approach

  • Approach 1
    • Conflicts with approach 2, 3, 4.
    • Requires the mapper to make a distinction that can be very difficult. People mapping forests are likely to be unable or not interested in making this distinction.
    • very rarely used, woodland=virgin is used less than 100 times worldwide. Switching to this tagging scheme would require resurveying over 7 000 000 of currently tagged forest areas.
    • Conflicts with widespread interpretation of landuse=forest as marking of forested areas. Potential switch to this tagging scheme would require updates on side of data consumers.
    • Any forest mapped using approach 6 requires resurvey.
  • Approach 2
    • Conflicts with approach 1, 3 and 4
  • Approach 3
    • Requires the mapper to make a distinction that can be very difficult. People mapping forests are likely to be unable or not interested in making this distinction.
    • Conflicts with approach 1, 2, 4.
    • Any forest mapped using approach 6 requires resurvey.
    • Does not distinguish between landuse=forest, natural=wood tagged using this approach and other approaches.
  • Approach 4
    • Uses the wood=* key which has gone out of favor for other purposes.
    • Conflicts with approach 1, 2, 3
    • Any forest mapped using approach 6 requires resurvey.
    • Forest tagged by mapper unable/uninterested in making distinction between managed and unmanaged forest would be ignored by typical data consumers. As result people are unlikely to start using this scheme.
    • Is fairly uncommon.
  • Approach 5
    • landcover=trees is not common and rarely supported by data consumers. As result either original mapper or somebody editing later in a given region will use other approach - instead or in addition to.
  • Approach 6
    • Does not distinguish between landuse=forest, natural=wood. As result it is disliked by people that would prefer these tags to have a different meaning.

General problem with this tagging scheme

When mapping from aerial or satellite images is usually very difficult to determine if a woodland area is used for forestry. This can be difficult even for the observer on the ground. As result people de facto use landuse=forest and natural=wood fairly arbitrarily.

As result tagging schemes that rely on differences between natural=wood landuse=forest are problematic. For a given area it is complicated to guess tagging scheme used by the original mapper. It is nearly impossible to do it automatically, at least there are no known tools doing this. As result other mappers and data consumers are unable to use data that was intended to be added by selecting natural=wood or landuse=forest.

Additional tags

  • name=* - name of the forest
  • landcover=trees
  • leaf_type=broadleaved/needleleaved/mixed - describes the type of leaves.
  • leaf_cycle=deciduous/evergreen/mixed - describes the phenology of leaves.
  • crop=* - Describes the type of crop

Rendering

For a given area it is impossible to guess what kind of tagging scheme was used by the original mapper, so in practice both natural=wood and landuse=forest are typically interpreted as "area covered by trees".

On maps forests are typically a green area. When leaf_type=* is set one may show little broad leaved or coniferous (or both) icons.

Possible rendering of woodland
Tag Rendering Comment Pictures
leaf_type=broadleaved Wood deciduous.png Broadleaved woodland. WaldAlfeld.jpg Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest.jpg
leaf_type=needleleaved Wood coniferous.png Needleleaved woodland. Swiss National Park 131.JPG Pinus canariensis (Barlovento) 06 ies.jpg
leaf_type=mixed Wood mixed.png Mixed woodland. Mixed forest-Poland spring.jpg 09272008 BrightonUT.JPG

See also

Related OSM projects

Wiki for all environment and natural tags and projects Environmental OSM