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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Fire and fungi and bugs, oh my!

Tree damage assessments have been included in state-level forest surveys since the 1930s, when the Forest Service began gathering this information. However, survey protocols have changed over time, making it difficult for the data to be used to their full potential. This research outlines the different methods employed over time and highlights how the data have and can be used.

The base of an oak tree, showing some decay
Tree condition is a key indicator of forest vigor and growth, ecological processes, and the quantity and quality of wood products. Identifying damages like decay in this oak tree is valuable information about the factors affecting forests across the landscape. USDA Forest Service photo by KaDonna Randolph.

Tree damage assessments provide a wealth of information about insects, pathogens, and other factors that affect forest health. However, these assessments have varied regionally and undergone revisions over time as information needs and technologies for data collection, storage, and analysis have evolved.

Users of Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data have noted difficulty in interpreting inventory protocols and database codes and asked for better documentation. This research addresses their appeals and is part of an ongoing effort to effectively engage a diverse public.

FIA aims to help users of these datasets understand how the inventory can identify where insects, pathogens, and disturbances are damaging trees, where changes in growth and mortality are likely to be significant, and what future forest conditions may be if no management action is taken.

The research describes recent damages to major tree species in the U.S. It also demonstrates the power of coupling FIA damage assessment data with aerial and terrestrial detection surveys. By preserving cross-regional institutional knowledge this work stewards past investments, stimulates current productivity, and fosters future efficiency.

Principal Investigators
KaDonna Randolph, Research Mathematical Statistician
Kerry Dooley, Forester
4801 - Forest Inventory and Analysis
Strategic Program Area
Inventory and Monitoring
Past and present individual-tree damage assessments of the US national forest inventory
Research Partners
John D. Shaw - Rocky Mountain Research Station
Randall S. Morin - Northern Research Station
Christopher Asaro - Forest Health Protection, Southern Region
Marin Palmer - Pacific Northwest Region