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Estimating Metrics of Forest Spatial Pattern from Large Area Forest Inventory Cluster Samples

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The interest in ecologically meaningful information from forest inventories is increasing. Forest area and its characteristics of spatial distribution are among this information. This paper describes a technique for deriving some metrics of forest spatial pattern from nonmapped forest inventory samples. The technique is developed for clusters of subplots, though applicable also for other plot types. It evaluates the area of the three categories: forest, nonforest, and buffer, estimated by the percentage of cluster plots where all, none, or some subplot centers fall into forest. Of particular interest is the buffer area, which is an imagined strip along the forest boundary: the larger this area, the more forest boundaries there are, and the more fragmented the forest pattern is. The estimates of forest and buffer area percentage are used to derive metrics that are related to perimeter length and mean patch size. Variance estimators for these metrics are given. Two examples are presented to illustrate the characteristics of the method, one with a schematic map, one with real inventory data. The most meaningful results are obtained when the size of the cluster plots used is smaller than the forest patches and smaller than the distance between them. The examples suggest that, in order to obtain reasonably precise estimates, sample size should be n = 500 or more. These conditions commonly hold in large area forest inventories. The technique processes information that is readily available from the field measurements of large area forest inventories. It does not require extra measurements and adds an ecologically meaningful aspect to the data analysis. It is independent of the availability of complete maps of the inventory region or of mapped plots, and therefore also allows the retrospective analysis of old forest inventory sample data. FOR. SCI. 46(4):548–557.

Keywords: Fragmentation indexes; buffer area; buffer length; perimeter-area ratio

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Statistics Subunit, Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), Turrialba 7170, Costa Rica, Phone: +506 556 1530; Fax: +506 556 7954

Publication date: 2000-11-01

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.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 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
    Other SAF Publications
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