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A Review of Methods for Mapping and Prediction of Inventory Attributes for Operational Forest Management

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Forest inventory attributes are an important source of information for a variety of strategic and tactical forest management purposes. However, it is not possible or feasible for field inventories to be conducted contiguously across large areas, especially at a resolution fine enough to be useful for operational management. Therefore, a large number of quantitative modeling and prediction methods have been and are being developed and applied to predict and map forest attributes, with the goal of providing an accurate, spatially continuous, and detailed information base for practitioners of forestry and ecosystem management. This article reviews the most commonly used prediction techniques in the context of a comprehensive modeling framework that includes a discussion of methods, data sources, variable selection, and model validation. The methods discussed include regression, nearest neighbor, artificial neural networks, decision trees, and ensembles such as random forest. No single technique is revealed as universally superior for predicting forest inventory attributes; the ideal approach depends on goals, available training and ancillary data, and the modeler's interest in tradeoffs between realism and statistical considerations. Useful ancillary data included in the models tend to include climate and topographic variables as well as vegetation indices derived from optical remote sensing systems such as Landsat. However, the use of airborne LiDAR in modeling of forest inventory attributes is increasing rapidly and shows promise for operational forest management applications. Different considerations are encapsulated within a generalized model development framework that provides a structure against which tradeoffs can be evaluated.
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Keywords: forest inventory; geospatial; imputation; mapping models; remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-08-08

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
    Other SAF Publications
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