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Some Theory for the Application of the Moving Average Estimator in Forest Surveys

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The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and National Resources Inventory programs are two examples of large-scale survey programs that are in the process of moving from periodic surveys, where data for an area are collected once every 10–15 years, to annual surveys, where a smaller sample of the data is collected every year. Each yearly sample can be referred to as a panel, and yearly estimates can be made with the data in each panel. With the change from periodic to annual surveys, there has been a substantial amount of discussion related to combining the data from the individual panels into a single estimator with an acceptably small mean square error. Numerous methods, each with certain advantages and disadvantages, have been proposed and tested. Testing with FIA data suggests that, in terms of mean square error, the equally weighted moving average estimator is often as good as or better than other estimators when making estimates for individual counties or small groups of counties. This favorable performance is due to the relatively small sample sizes in these situations. One area of research that has not been addressed is the performance of the moving average estimator when the sampling design deviates from its original protocol. Factors that cannot be controlled, such as weather, budgets, and politics, can alter the original sampling design. The purpose of this article is to propose and derive estimators that accommodate these factors and give some guidelines on how to handle these situations when they occur. FOR. SCI. 50(5):672–681.

Keywords: Panel surveys; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; moving average; natural resource management; natural resources; variance estimator

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Mathematical Sciences University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks AK 99775 2: Rocky Mountain Research Station USDA Forest Service 2150 A Centre Ave., Suite 361 Fort Collins CO 80526 Phone: (970) 295-5974;, Fax: (970) 295-5959, Email:

Publication date: 2004-10-01

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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