What is the "BIS"?

The Bush Information System (BIS), is a WebGIS application on bush encroachment and woody biomass datasets in Namibia. BIS serves as a decision support and monitoring tool for woody biomass resources and is developed through collection and dissemination of satellite based information on wood cover and biomass for Namibia.

For more information go to the About section in the Overview & Help tab.

Why do I have to register in the system?

Only registered users have full access to the Bush Information System. As registered users you can generate pdf reports on bush encroachment parameters for your defined areas, store your data and access all BIS products.

Where to get support?

Please check the BIS Help Overview section, use the manuals in the Documents section or ask the help desk via the Contact Us information provided on the bottom of this page.

See BIS WebGIS USER manual in the Documents section.

What is a "Layer"?

A layer in the BIS is a geospatial dataset. A dataset is composed of individual geospatial elements. This could be raster information such as a satellite images, satellite derived maps or vector information such as road networks, administrative boundaries or others.

Within the BIS all data are provided with metadata.

See Layers

What is a "Map"?

Maps are compositions of BIS layers that are displayed and overlaid within an interactive GIS viewer. Maps can be stored as a separate category within the BIS. This allows to save the efforts that are necessary to setup and arrange all used and compared layers for your specific investigations.

To store your individual maps you need to be registered. More details on how to create and handle BIS maps are provided in the BIS WebGIS USER manual in the Documents section.

See Maps

What is an "AOI" and how to create it?

An Area of Interest (AOI) is a user-defined boundary of an area, typically a farm or a part of it. In the BIS an AOI is handled and stored like any other layer but it is categorized as AOI in its Metadata.
A new AOI can be created directly in the BIS by choosing the Draw New AOI button in the Create Report or Create Information Package section.


  1. Select a name and title for the new AOI layer.

  2. In the second step use the Editing Tools and Edit data to digitize (draw) the boundary of your AOI using the provided background maps.

  3. In the last step assign the layer to the AOI Category.

There are also options to create an AOI in shapefile format outside of the BIS. Here the general procedure is

  1. Digitize the AOI boundaries in open source GIS software like QGIS or Google Earth and save it as shapefile format.

  2. Upload the shapefile to the BIS Layers section.

  3. Select the uploaded shapefile in the layers section and use Editing Tools and the Metadata Wizard to assign the category AOI

A detailed instruction with different options to create a new AOI is provided in the Create AOI manual.
Once you have assigned the created layer to the AOI category it can be selected in the My BIS section to create reports, Information packages or maps.

How to upload a layer?

This is an important function in order to benefit from the BIS. You can upload your Areas of Interests (AoI) as vector files, which are then the basis to create your individualized BIS reports and assessments.
The BIS currently supports only shapefile format. A shapefile consists of minimum three files with the same name but with different extensions .shp, .dbf, .shx. Optional file extensions can be .prj, .cpg, .sbx, and some more.

In the Layers tab select the Upload Layers button to open the Upload Layers menu. Choose files to be uploaded from the computer or simply drag and drop the files from your explorer to the drop area. Make sure to select all files belonging to the shapefile.

Permissions on who can edit, view or download the layer can be set to individual users or to user groups. By default only the user who created the layer can make changes or download the layer.

After successful upload you can directly access the layer options to Edit or Upload metadata, Upload a layer style file or manage different style options.

To use the uploaded layer as AOI see Create AOI in the BIS Overview & Help or the Create an AOI manual in the Documents tab.

How to create a map?

A Map in the BIS is the cartographic display of one layer or a combination of multiple layers. Usually a map is a meaningful combination of layers, for example the farm boundary AOI layer and the BIS Canopy Cover as background.
In the BIS the user can create Maps and save, share or export the map for printing.
The Map Print option allows to include a legend, a scale bar and north arrow in the print out.
New Maps can be created in different ways, for example


  • in the Layers tab, by selecting one or multiple layers and then clicking on Create a Map,

  • or in the Maps tab, by clicking on Create a New Map and then adding layers to it.

New maps or changes to existing Maps are only permanently stored if they are saved using SAVE or SAVE AS from the map menu button on the right side.

User created and saved maps can be directly accessed from My Maps section in the My BIS tab.
For a quick start, go to the Maps tab and open one of the already existing BIS maps, BIS Species Map or the Collection of BIS Products. Open any of the Maps by clicking on the map and then on View Map button. In the map view you click on the layers symbol on the left side to open the layers panel. Here the loaded layers are shown. The Layer on top will overlay the layers below, change the order of the layers by drag and drop. Make Layers visible by switching them on or off by moving them up.
Click Add layer and select your farm AOI (see how to create and upload a Layer or AOI above). Select the option button on the right and select SAVE AS and enter a name to save the map with the current arrangement of layers. Click on Print in the map menu to export the current view of the map to make to .pdf.

Is it possible to link the BIS with an external GIS?

Yes, in both ways. External Web Mapping Services (WMS) can be introduced as layers, and BIS layers can be exported as WMS data into, for instance your local desktop GIS.

For more details see the BIS WebGIS USER manual in the Documents section.

How to use the BIS Namibia data with QGIS as WMS?

It is possible to use the data from the BIS within QGIS as a WMS. Please see the tutorial or the BIS User manual for more information.

How to export a layer?

There are different options within the BIS to export GIS data. All layer types can be opened or locally saved as pdf or jpg file, and all vector layers can be exported as well as digital GIS data in shp format. Due to the file sizes the BIS EO products in raster format are to be requested via the BIS administrator.
To export files proceed as follows:
In the Layers tab click on the layer to be exported and then the Export Layer button to open the Export Layer window. In the Export Layer window select the preferred export format. Depending on the type of the selected layer and on the permissions different export formats are available.

Vector layer can be exported as a screenshot of the layer (Image) or in different vector formats (Data).
Raster data like maps can be exported as Image.

How to delete an AOI or a layer?

Sometimes you may want to clean your list of layers. In this case:
Click on the uploaded layer or AOI in the Layers tab. Click the Editing Tools button and choose the red Remove button. Confirm that you want to delete the layer from the BIS.

Deleting of layers is based on the user permissions for this layer, usually only the user who created the layer can delete the layer.

User created AOIs or Layers can be directly accessed from the My AOIs section in the My BIS tab.

Deleting a layer or AOI in BIS removes the layer from the BIS, it does not delete any data stored on your local computer.

How to change a legend of a layer?

The appearance of a layer in the map (colour, outline etc.) is recorded as a layer style.

For some BIS products e.g. BIS Height of Trees (HT) different predefined styles exists. To change between the styles click on the layer in the Layers tab and scroll to the Styles section on the right hand side. Here the styles can be selected if more than one is available for this layer.

Styles for layers can be changed in the Layer’s Editing Tools and selecting Edit button in the Styles column.

Styles can also be created outside of BIS as a .sld file (for example in QGIS) and imported to the BIS.

What are "Metadata"?

Metadata are overall descriptions of digital data layers that contain important information among others about the source, the quality, the rights to use the data or how the data had been created.

As defined standardized fact sheets metadata are an important basis for the establishment of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) that laid down in the Namibian NSDI policy and gazetted in the NSDI standards (No. 6143, No. 6144 and No. 615). Internationally metadata standards are organized through the ISO 9001:2015.

What are “Reports” and which are available?

The reports provide information to support decision making for de-bushing / harvesting related topics and planning for a user defined AOI. The report contains information on the selected BIS product for the user defined AOI, it consists of a map of the AOI with the BIS product as background and zonal attribute statistics for the user defined AOI. To generate a report an AOI is required. The following Reports can be selected from the MyBIS Tab:

BIS Canopy Cover Change (CCC) 2015 to 2018:
The BIS Canopy Cover Change map 2018 versus 2015 provides information on the average canopy cover change in % of the dominating vegetation aggregated to one 1ha pixel resolution. The product is based on the comparison of the BIS_CC products of 2018 versus 2015, and was created by means of a simple raster calculation.

BIS Above Ground Biomass (AGB) 2018:
The BIS Above Ground Biomass map 2018 provides information on the average above ground biomass of the dominating vegetation in tons per hectare pixel resolution. It is based on Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 image data from 2018, and produced using regressive Random Forest models.

BIS Evapotranspiration Tree Equivalent (ETTE) 2018:
The BIS ETTE map 2018 provides information on the average Bush Density measured in ETTE of the dominating vegetation per hectare pixel resolution. It is based on Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 image data from 2018, and produced using regressive Random Forest models.

BIS Canopy Cover (CC) 2015:
The BIS Canopy Cover map 2015 provides information on the average canopy cover in % of the dominating vegetation per hectare. It is based on Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 image data from 2018, and produced using regressive Random Forest models.

BIS Canopy Cover (CC) 2018:
The BIS Canopy Cover map 2018 provides information on the average canopy cover in % of the dominating vegetation per hectare. It is based on Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 image data from 2018, and produced using regressive Random Forest models.

BIS Height of Trees (HT) 2018:
The BIS Height of trees map 2018 provides information on the average height in m of the dominating vegetation per hectare pixel resolution. It is based on Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 image data from 2018, and produced using regressive Random Forest models.

What are “Information packages” and which are available?

The information packages provide information to support decision making for de-bushing / harvesting related topics and planning for the user defined AOI. The packages combine information from different BIS products as well as other information like slope, road network, rivers and pans.
The packages on planning of de-bushing / harvesting activities include indications if relevant environmental protection regulations apply in the area of interest. De-bushing / harvesting is prohibited for trees with stem diameter > 18cm, on slopes > 12.5°, within a buffer zone of 100m distance to Pans and Rivers and in protected areas.
The output of the packages is a one page pdf report containing a map and statistics for the user defined AOI. Information packages can be selected from the MyBIS Tab. Like for the reports an AOI is required to generate an information package.
Please note, that the packages are based on modelling of different datasets and average parameters and shall provide as good as possible indications to support decision making for the user. Nevertheless a certain error threshold has to be expected and a visit in the field to verify the conditions on the ground is highly recommended. The following information packages are available:

Support for clearance application:
The information package “Support for clearance application” supports the user to identify areas in which harvesting activities are potentially allowed and in compliance with environmental protection regulations.
The package is based on the BIS Height of trees map 2018 product assuming that trees < 4m have a stem diameter < 18cm.

Planning and Logistics for farmers:
The information package “Planning and Logistics for farmers” supports decision making for harvesting and clearance of bush. It combines information on Above Ground Biomass (AGB), with road network and restrictions on harvesting due to environmental protection regulations.
The average stem diameter is modelled from the BIS Height of trees map 2018 assuming that trees > 4m have a stem diameter > 18cm. To consider model errors, the areas with possible clearance restrictions are displayed in 2 classes. (1) Uncertain and (2) Exclusion.

Benchmark for harvester:
The information package “Benchmark for harvester” provides information on the quantity of the Above Ground Biomass (AGB) for the selected area, taking into account a benchmark of 30 t/ha and restrictions on harvesting due to environmental protection regulations. It supports decision making for commercial harvesting of woody biomass.
The average stem diameter is modelled from the BIS Height of trees map 2018 assuming that trees > 4m have a stem diameter > 18cm. To consider model errors, the areas with possible harvest restrictions are displayed in 2 classes. (1) Uncertain and (2) Exclusion.

Additionally the zonal attributes for the AOI provides information on the area with AGB > 30 t/ha.

Efficiency assessment of harvesting and clearing activities:
The information package “Efficiency assessment of harvesting / clearing activities” enables the user to evaluate / monitor canopy changes within the selected area between the years 2015 and 2018.