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The Evolution of Forest Inventory

James D Arney · Mark V Corrao

   For nearly two centuries’ foresters have worked within the constraints of data and time to build representative ‘inventories’ that describe the spatial and structural variations of a forest to make actionable decisions. At the core of describing these variations are tree size, number, spatial distribution and species which all vary across any landscape and are essential components of a working forest inventory.

  The quantification of forest density and structure comprises assessing forest stands across the landscape to provide a baseline set of functional metrics that describe the standing volume of similarly forested areas. Describing forests as ‘stands’, and including multiple parameters expressed on a per acre basis, has provided a long and very successful foundation for communication throughout the forestry profession for more than a century.

  Stands are defined as forested areas stratified into similar tree sizes by density and species class. These are often the result of judgments made by an experienced field forester with the aid of available maps and aerial imagery. The value of differences in height and/or density tallied by stand, and occurring between stands, is by design and helps to define components of the forest to achieve management objectives. These ‘stand-based’ metrics, when presented on a per acre basis, continue today to constitute the primary means of communicating forest conditions between ownerships and across geographic regions.

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