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Avoiding Spurious Conclusions from Forest Service Estimates of Timber Volume, Growth, Removal, and Mortality

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Forest inventory statistics developed by the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) units are useful in examining a variety of economic and biological issues, including forest-industry plant location, biological supplies of specific timber species, forest health, and long-term sustainability of timber resources. In general, these statistics accurately represent the resource, especially at the inventory-unit and state levels. However, several issues related to data collection must be understood to prevent spurious conclusions, especially when examining forest change characteristics such as removals, mortality, net growth, or the growth-removal ratio. Because FIA statistics are developed by sampling procedures, they are subject to sampling error. As the size of the forest area under study decreases, the number of observations used to develop FIA statistics decreases. The number of observations used to calculate FIA statistics can be particularly inadequate when examining net growth, removals, mortality, and growth-removal ratios of specific species for geographical areas smaller than inventory units.

Keywords: Forest inventory; data analysis; forest sustainability; sampling error

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Project Leader Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station 241 Mercer Springs Road Princeton WV 24740 2: Research Forester Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station 11 Campus Boulevard, Suite 200 Newtown Square PA 19073

Publication date: December 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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