Comparing methods that quantify forest disturbances in the United States' national forest inventory
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Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Forest disturbances play a critical role in ecosystem dynamics. However, the methods for quantifying these disturbances at broad scales may underestimate disturbances that affect individual trees. Utilizing individual tree variables may provide early disturbance detection that directly affects tree demographics and forest dynamics. The goals of this study were to (1) describe different methods for quantifying disturbances at individual tree and condition-level scales, (2) compare the differences between disturbance variables, and (3) provide a methodology for selecting an appropriate disturbance variable from national forest inventories for diverse applications depending on user needs. To achieve these goals, we used all the remeasurements available from the USDA Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database since the start of the annual inventory for the lower 48 US states. Variables used included disturbance code, treatment code, agent of mortality, and damage code. Chi-square tests of independence were used to verify how the choice of the variable that represents disturbance affects its magnitude. Disturbed plots, as classified by each disturbance variable, were mapped to observe their spatial distribution. We found that the Chi-square tests were significant when using all the states and comparing each state individually, indicating that different results exist depending on which variable is used to represent disturbance. Our results will be a useful tool to help researchers measure the magnitude and scale of disturbance since the manner in which disturbances are categorized will impact forest management plans, national and international reports of forest carbon stocks, and sequestration potential under future global change scenarios.
KeywordsForest health; Disturbance regime; Landscape ecology; Ecosystem dynamics; Chi-square test
Fitts, Lucia A.; Domke, Grant M.; Russell, Matthew B. 2022. Comparing methods that quantify forest disturbances in the United States' national forest inventory. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 194(4): 304. 17 p. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-022-09948-z.