Assessing the measuring time of forest plots


  • Lucio Di Cosmo CREA Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economy Analysis, Trento, Italy



forest inventory, forest monitoring, fieldwork efficiency, measurement costs, forest mensuration, sample, survey.


Forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services and information requirements on forests have grown considerably. Nevertheless, collecting information in the forest is expensive and for this reason assessment of forest resources strongly relies on statistical sampling. However, plot measurement remains essential even when remote-sensing data are used, and field assessments are still among the costliest components of forest inventories. Studies on the costs for plots survey are limited and usually based on expert evaluation rather than on data. This article analysed the relationship between the time needed for measuring forest plots and their site-related characteristics (slope, terrain roughness), stand features (number of trees, subsample trees, stumps, coarse woody debris, understorey vegetation) and protocol-related procedures, by means of univariate and multivariate analyses. Analyses showed that the time needed for measuring plots depends on the workload or the intensity of fieldwork. Especially, the number of variables surveyed matters, because the variables explained the measuring time variation by an additive effect, suggesting that within a complex field protocol the total number of measurements taken may not represent properly the overall intensity of work. Marking in an effective way permanent plots is recommendable because the retrieval success of the pins buried into the ground was the most important explanatory variable. Presence of understorey vegetation was more important than the number of individuals measured. The results obtained are consistent and logical, but the variance explained was limited, suggesting that predictability of the measuring time under complex field protocols might be intrinsically limited by the interactions among factors with opposite effects and especially by the adaptation of the surveyors to specific circumstances. For example, effects of physical tiredness were not detected in the days when two plots were measured; conversely, measuring a second plot reduced the measuring time of the first, an event most likely dependent on the surveyors’ behaviour. Under the conclusion that predictability is low by nature, the inference of studies based on simulation data and simplified protocols to practical applications was finally discussed.


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Research article