Interpreting effects of multiple, large-scale disturbances using national forest inventory data: A case study of standing dead trees in east Texas, USA

Christopher B. Edgar, James A. Westfall, Paul A. Klockow, Jason G. Vogel, Georgianne W. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Understanding the impacts of large-scale disturbances on forest conditions is necessary to support forest management, planning, and policy decision making. National forest inventories (NFIs) are an important information source that provide consistent data encompassing large areas, covering all ownerships, and extending through time. Here we compare how temporal aggregation approaches with NFI data affects estimates of standing dead trees as these respond to extreme disturbance events. East Texas was selected for this study owing to the occurrence of three significant disturbance events in a short span: Hurricane Rita in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and a historic drought in 2011. Wide-spread tree damage and mortality were reported after each disturbance and estimates of standing dead trees were used as the inventory variable for assessment. In the NFI of the US, the plot network is systematically divided into panels and one panel is measured each year. A measurement cycle is completed when all panels have been measured, which varies between 5 and 10 years depending on the region. Using the standard estimation approach of the US NFI, we computed population estimates using data from the full set of panels (FSP), multiple sets of panels (MSP), and single set of panels (SSP). For estimation, a single plot observation is computed from the most recent measurement of the plot that does not exceed the estimate year. Because one panel is measured per year, FSP and MSP estimates will necessarily consist of plot observations whose measurements were collected over a number of years. The SSP estimate is computed from one panel and thus all the plot observations are based on measurements collected over one year. We found that interpretations of disturbance event impacts varied depending on which sets of estimates were considered. All sets of estimates suggested a large and significant drought impact. However, differences existed among the estimates in the timing and magnitude of the impacts. The FSP estimates showed clear lag bias and smoothing of trends relative to the SSP estimates. MSP estimates were intermediate between FSP and SSP estimates. Differences in Hurricane Rita impacts were also observed between sets of estimates. Evidence of a net impact on standing dead trees following Hurricane Ike was weak among all sets of estimates. Given the potential for lag bias and smoothing, we recommend that SSP and MSP estimates be considered along with FSP estimates in assessments of large-scale disturbance impacts on forest conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Drought
  • Estimation
  • Hurricane
  • National forest inventory
  • Panel
  • Standing dead trees


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