Visual simulation is a term used to describe a graphic or model that portrays a change from the existing condition. Simulations can range from drawings and digitally edited images to complex models and animations. The information presented here focuses on one type of visual simulation: the use of computer image editing techniques to illustrate proposed changes in the landscape.
In natural resource planning, being able to simulate a proposed change can be a powerful tool when working with landowners and other decision-makers. Computers now make it possible to create realistic-looking simulations using image editing software.
Image editing software digitally alters images to create visual simulations. Digital images of the planning area can be acquired by scanning photographs or taking pictures with a digital camera. The proposed design can then be "created" by adding objects, such as trees, shrubs, grass, and other materials, onto the image of the planning area.
There are many commercially available software programs that can be used to create visual simulations. The National Agroforesty Center has developed CanVis, a free image editing program developed specifically for creating natural resource planning simulations.