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Terrain Shape Index: Quantifying Effect of Minor Landforms on Tree Height

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In the southern Appalachians, the distribution and growth of trees are highly correlated with local topography, but the relationships have been difficult to describe quantitatively. A quantitative expression of the geometric shape of the land surface (terrain shape index) is described and correlated with overstory tree heights and site quality. Application of the index in three even-aged stands of yellow-popular (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) on high-quality uniform sites shows that it is highly correlated with total height of trees in a stand, with r² ranging from 0.45 to 0.74. In comparisons among stands, the index accounted for an average of 51% of the variation in site index. The relationship was validated in two supplementary stands and accounted for about 49% of variation in site index. The terrain shape index was more accurate in predicting tree height than was lateral shape class, a subjective measure of slope shape occasionally used in soil-site studies. For. Sci. 35(1):91-104.
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Keywords: Liriodendron tulipifera; Site quality; height growth; site index

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Silviculturist, USDA Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Asheville, N.C. 28804

Publication date: 1989-03-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
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