Effects of changing forest land definitions on forest inventory on the West Coast, USA
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A key function of forest inventory is to detect changes in the area of forest land over time, yet different definitions of forest land are used in different regions of the world. Changes in the definition of forest intended to improve international consistency can affect the ability to quantify true changes over time. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of a definitional change from relative stocking to canopy cover on the area classified as forest land and its relationship to species and forest density in California, Oregon, and Washington. Both western Juniper and ponderosa pine will yield higher estimates of forest land area using a canopy cover definition in comparison to a stocking-based definition, with the difference being most pronounced where land is marginally forested. The change in definition may result in an additional 146,000 ha of forest land identified on the West Coast. Measuring marginal forest lands with both metrics for the first cycle after implementation should make it possible to distinguish real change from definitional change.
KeywordsForest definition Forest inventory Relative stocking Canopy cover
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