Discussion Paper: Establishing Cause-Effect Relationships using Forest Survey Data

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The issue of whether Forest Survey data can be used to establish cause-effect relationships is addressed. We discuss analogous situations in other fields of science, where survey data has been useful in establishing cause-effect, as well as some of the statistical theory developed expressly to deal with cause-effect. We conclude that cause-effect may be established, if both the potential cause and effect variables are measured in the Survey provided the variables are measured accurately, estimated properly, and are based on a large enough sample. Otherwise, Forest Survey data can be used, however, to establish growth trends for large areas, suggest and identify potential cause-effect hypotheses, and identify supplemental data sets to be collected to bolster or reject potential hypotheses.

Keywords: Cause-effect criteria; analogies with other fields; designed experiment; growth; models; mortality; observational studies

Document Type: Discussion

Affiliations: Research Forester, Institute for Quantitative Studies, USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans, LA

Publication date: December 1, 1991

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  • 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.
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