Any discussion of research in a scientiﬁc ﬁeld is subject to caveats because research must of necessity be less deﬁnitive than a discussion of the ﬁeld's established operational practices. First, enumerations of current research topics will be dated and subject to the perspective of the enumerator. Second, the focus of research change quickly and is subject to funding and societal priorities, perceptions of issues that demand immediate attention, and technical and technological advances. Finally, research, by deﬁnition, indicates that ﬁnal solutions have not been achieved and that results may only be reported as preliminary or as works in progress. Thus, this assessment of biometric research in forest inventory should be considered a static summary in a rapidly changing discipline. Given these caveats, current biometric research in forest inventory is focused in three major areas: forest sustainability, data delivery, and spatial estimation. With respect to forest sustainability, regional, national, and international public constituencies seek assessments of the effects on forest resources of forest management practices and environmental changes.
[...] The biometric research challenge is to do so in the most timely and user-friendly manner that preserves the utility of the data while simultaneously accommodating integrity, privacy, and disclosure requirements. SUMMARY The biometric research challenges in forest inventory are many, vary by program, and change over time. Research challenges were discussed in three topic areas: forest sustainability, data delivery, and spatial estimation. In the area of forest sustainability, the challenges are to integrate sampling designs for variables providing information on the health of the forest with traditional inventory sampling designs and to develop estimation methods that permit precise estimates for temporal trends in the variables using data from a sparse spatial array of plots. [...]
[...] In addition, because of the substantial additional cost of obtaining observations for these variables, the number of plots with the additional observations per unit area is substantially less than for traditional inventory plots; for the FIA program of the US Forest Service, the ratio is approximately 1 : 16. Thus, in order to relieve analysts and users from having to choose between only moderately precise regional estimates or imprecise estimates for smaller areas, biometric research must focus on developing methods for increasing the precision of estimates of the current status and change in these variables. [...]
[...] Although creating uncertainty in the locations and ownerships of plots satisﬁes the plot integrity, privacy, and nondisclosure requirements, there re- main biometric research challenges. Knowing that inventory programs do not release the actual coordinates of plot locations, users often submit maps or satellite image classiﬁcations and request that the inventory program validate these spatial products by providing the map or classiﬁcation categories for locations corresponding to inventory plots. If aggregated summaries of the results for large numbers of plots sufﬁce, then no plot integrity or disclosure requirements are violated. [...]
[...] Biometric research to develop procedures for estimating the current status and change in these variables at meaningful geographic scales for relevant temporal intervals is crucial. Data Delivery Internet access Because national forest inventories are typically funded by national governments, there are valid arguments for maximizing the utility of inventory data by making it publicly accessible. Internet access is becoming the medium of choice for distributing inventory data to the public, although a variety of constraints may be necessary depending on form of the data to which access is provided. [...]
[...] First, release of plot locations may entice users to visit plot locations to obtain additional information which could result in artiﬁcial disturbance of the ecology of the sites and, in turn, induce bias in the inventory estimates. Second, forest inventory programs rely on the goodwill of private forest landowners for permission to observe plots on their land. Landowners generally do not welcome unwarranted or frequent intrusions and often only permit visits by inventory crews contingent on assurances that the plot locations and proprietary information will not be released. [...]
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