Anomalous dismeter distribution shifts estimated from FIA inventories through time
In the past decade, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) has replaced regionally autonomous, periodic, state-wide forest inventories using various probability proportional to tree size sampling designs with a nationally consistent annual forest inventory design utilizing systematically spaced clusters of fixed area plots. This has resulted in significant changes in the spatial-temporal distribution of observations on the nation’s forest resource. This paper discusses the resulting changes in the observation of the distribution of tree diameters measured at 1.37m above ground level. We show that in three of the four FIA regions, a significant portion of the upper end of the diameter distribution has thus far gone unobserved by the new inventory design. We conclude that the reason is not that the larger diameter trees have become less common but rather that there is a low enough probability of observing these trees that they are not being observed. This postulate is supported by the observation that large-diameter trees are not missing from the data acquired by the fourth FIA region (the Pacific Northwest), which uses an additional sampling mechanism for large-diameter trees. We explore the implications of this effect in addition to potential solutions.