Canadian Forest Service Publications
Artificial intelligence: a new tool for forest management. 1990. Kourtz, P.H. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 20 (4): 428-437.
Issued by: National Capital Region
Catalog ID: 10589
Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)
Artificial intelligence is a new science that deals with the representation, automatic acquisition, and use of knowledge. Artificial intelligence programs attempt to emulate human thought processes such as deduction, inference, language, and visual recognition. The goal of artificial intelligence is to make computers more useful for reasoning, planning, acting, and communicating with humans. Development of artificial intelligence applications involves the integration of advanced computer science, psychology, and sometimes robotics. Of the subfields that artificial intelligence can be broken into, the one of most immediate interest to forest management is expert systems. Expert systems involve encoding knowledge usually derived from an expert in a narrow subject area and using this knowledge to mimic his decision making. The knowledge is represented usually in the form of facts and rules, involving symbols such as English words. At the core of these systems is a mechanism that automatically searches for and pieces together the facts and rules necessary to solve a specific problem. Small expert systems can be developed on common microcomputers using existing low-cost commercial expert shells. Shells are general expert systems empty of knowledge. The user merely defines the solution structure and adds the desired knowledge. Larger systems usually require integration with existing forestry data bases and models. Their development requires either the relatively expensive expert system development tool kits or the use of one of the artificial intelligence development languages such as lisp or PROLOG. Large systems are expensive to develop, require a high degree of skill in knowledge engineering and computer science, and can require years of testing and modification before they become operational. Expert systems have a major role in all aspects of Canadian forestry. They can be used in conjunction with conventional process models to add currently lacking expert knowledge or as pure knowledge-based systems to solve problems never before tackled. They can preserve and accumulate forestry knowledge by encoding it. Expert systems allow us to package our forestry knowlege into a transportable and saleable product. They are a means to ensure consistent application of policies and operational procedures. There is a sense of urgency associated with the integration of artificial intelligence tools into Canadian forestry. Canada must awaken to the potential of this technology. Such systems are essential to improve industrial efficiency. A possible spin-off will be a resource knowledge business that can market our forestry knowledge worldwide. If we act decisively, we can easily compete with other countries such as Japan to fill this niche. A consortium of resource companies, provincial resource agencies, universities, and federal government laboratories is required to advance this goal.