The Australian state of Queensland has a new environmental icon: Big Bob, a giant eucalypt that stretches up more than 70 meters (229 feet) and is believed to be Queensland's tallest tree.
Sunshine Coast Regional Council geographers used cutting-edge GIS technology from Esri Australia Pty. Ltd. to find the eucalypt, nicknamed Big Bob after Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot. The tree is around the same height as a 21-story building.
Toby Clewett, Chris Jones, Dean Derby, Lee King, and Martin Browne, from Sunshine Coast Regional Council's geospatial team, discovered the tree on November 13, 2011, in Conondale National Park, about 50 kilometers west of Maroochydore. This occurred during a project to precisely map all vegetation on the Sunshine Coast in southeast Queensland. Clewett, a geospatial analyst with the council, said the GIS-driven find cemented the Sunshine Coast's reputation as a vibrant, green, and diverse region.
"The project team strives to make our region Australia's most sustainable, and Big Bob is our icon for that goal," Clewett said. "Using GIS technology, our research uncovered Big Bob, which stands at almost 73 meters tall—the highest tree on record in Queensland. Knowing we have tree specimens this unique represents the pinnacle of environmental sustainability and underlines the work we're doing to conserve them."
Esri Australia business manager Anton Delporte said the council found the tree by using GIS technology to map aerial laser survey data. "The survey results contained approximately seven billion laser measurements, which is an enormous amount of complex information," Delporte said. "However, that data was meaningless until GIS technology was used to map and analyze the information and enable the council staff to view it in a meaningful way."
GIS brought the terrain into sharper focus.
"The result was something like a digital forest, with different colors representing varying tree heights and canopy levels," Delporte said. "Using GIS technology to investigate mapping information is much more efficient and accurate than producing a paper map, which in this case could have been 80 meters high and about the same width."
Clewett said the discovery of Big Bob will support the council's environmental management processes for monitoring, management, and planning.
"The results achieved through the GIS analysis will be integrated into the new Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme and the biodiversity report card for comprehensive baseline habitat mapping," he said.
Mayor Abbot said the Sunshine Coast settlements were founded by forestry pioneers. "It's significant that such a unique tree can now provide a bridge between the past and the council's current vision of the Sunshine Coast being Australia's most sustainable region," he said.