The Northwest Habitat Institute has been developing the use of 3-D visualization techniques to explore different habitat improvement and ecosystem restoration projects.

Below is an example of these visualization techniques from Aliso and Wood Canyon Regional Wilderness Park near Laguna Beach, California

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Using Visual Nature Studio 3 visualization software from 3-D Nature, NHI has been able to overlay current habitat surveys over real terrain data and aerial imagery to create a realistic view of the current vegetation conditions at the park.


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This view of a water retention structure within the park illustrates the capability to model vegetation types from grasses to shrubs to trees. Information can be collected to reflect the vegetation species distributions and densities for each mapped habitat type polygon. This information can then be input into the visualization system to be accurately modeled.

Another use for these visualization techniques is change detection. In this example NHI overlaid 1939 aerial imagery onto the terrain data set to depict conditions as they were before large scale development of the area. The comparison of the 1939 to 2005 imagery clearly shows changes in the river channel and associated vegetation types. The red polygon layer in both images is based on 2009 imagery.

2005 NAIP imagery

1939 aerial imagery

Another exmple of the use of visualization tools is in the L.A. River area of Los Angeles County, CA

These 3-D visualizations can help imform the public about what project areas looked like in the past and what they will look like in the future given different scenarios. Alternative mangement actions and changing vegetation patterns can be visually modeled to provide context and proof of conepts being developed. We believe this is an important tool at the disposal of resource managers to further their conservation goals.