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Biometrics Working Group Meeting Material

The BWG is administered by NCASI.  The BWG organizes meetings where knowledgeable forest biometricians from academia, government forestry agencies and industry discuss technical issues.  Meeting topics are often related to the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program.  However, technical issues on carbon monitoring or sustainable forestry are also of interest. 



2015 National FIA-User-Group Meeting in San Antonio, TX

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: To learn about issues effecting the FIA program and to provide an opportunity for FIA staff to hear from users.
  2. Agenda: pdf
  3. Presentations: Available meeting presentations are here.
  4. Attendees: See list of attendees here.
  5. Follow-up items and strong endorsements/concerns from the user group:
    • Don't change the design: User community concerns refer to key aspects of the annual inventory that must be maintained in order to get reliable estimates of current status and change over time. Therefore, the fixed plot configuration should not be changed, plot intensity should not be reduced, and every effort should be made to maintain a 5 year remeasurement cycle in the East and a 10 year cycle in the West. A change in core variables or moving to fuzzed mapping would not constitute a design change. Going to a periodic survey beyond interior Alaska, Hawaii, and islands in the Atlantic and Pacific would be a significant design change. Budget reductions should be absorbed with a slower remeasurement cycle so plot intensity can be maintained.

    • Technical issues:
      1. GRM - It was suggested that FIA produce a white paper on GRM techniques being used, especially for the macro plot employed in part of PNW-FIA.
      2. Condition Mapping - A suggestion was made to look at the benefit of full mapping versus fuzzed mapping. Full mapping can be time consuming, especially with 4 macro-plots that cumulatively cover a full acre. What are benefits and challenges with changes estimation at time 2, time 3, and time 4 of full mapping versus fuzzed mapping?
      3. Improve spatial access - FIA should revisit their original proposal to allow users who have legitimate need for access to plot coordinates or more detailed owner information to become FIA Agents. Users should contact Liz LaPoint (elapoint@fs.fed.us) at the FIA National Spatial Data Services with their proposed need. For example, plot coordinates are needed to make maps showing gross and net forest cover change, which is something the User Group expressed an interest in.

    • Other FIA Surveys:
      1. TPO - Users endorsed FIA's proposal to develop an actual sample design for the Timber Product Output survey. This would lead to a statistically valid sample and to greater compatibility across the lower 48 states.
      2. Alaska - Users endorsed a proposal to conduct a periodic survey in interior Alaska as long as the cost was held down to something on the order of $2-3 million annually.
      3. NWOS - Users were pleased to learn that the National Woodland Owner's Survey is making good progress toward incorporating all owners in the survey and not just family forest owners.
      4. Urban - Users were convinced that FIA is striving to minimize the impact of urban inventories on the core program. Users were especially pleased to hear that participating cities are expected to contribute to the costs after they understand the important benefits that this inventory will provide.
      5. Tree Planting - Users endorsed FIA's plan to continue sampling tree nursuries and to begin sampling major tree planters, as well. This would allow for the possibility of getting statistically reliable estimates of acres planted by species along with confidence intervals.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2015 User Group meeting is available for download.


2014 National FIA-User-Group Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: To learn about issues effecting the FIA program and to provide an opportunity for FIA staff to hear from users.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here
  3. Presentations: Available meeting presentations are here.
  4. Attendees: See list of attendees here.
  5. Follow-up items and strong endorsements/concerns from the user group:
    • Put a firewall around the core FIA program: This is repeated from previous years, because users think the base field plot system must be completed and maintained as the program's top priority. The field plot data are the foundation for most products derived from the FIA program. Generally, users are happy with the annual inventory, and they consider field plots to be the core FIA program. They don't object to FIA working in other areas, but they don't want funding for the core program to be used to support other activities. The core program should be clearly defined in the Strategic Plan.

    • Other user endorsed FIA activities:
      1. Use remote sensing to improve efficiency and enhance the core program: Geo-Spatial data and tools should be developed to facilitate this objective.
      2. Continue to annualize and nationalize the Timber Product Output program: The TPO program should use sampling techniques to ensure that all types of wood using facilities are represented and sampled. For example, sampling from a list of wood using facilities with probability proportional to fiber use should be considered.
      3. Conduct research on tradeoffs between increased plot intensity and longer survey cycles: Consider using disturbance detection to make disturbance information available to users. Maintain the current sample design and use disturbance detection for enhanced attribution of change agents. Protecting the current sample design, and avoiding variable probability sample selection, is a prime directive for maintaining the core program.
      4. Foster collaboration between FIA and partners: Partners and users of FIA data and products should be encouraged to participate in user group meetings and provide assistance to the FIA program when all parties benefit.
      5. Continue the Biennial FIA Symposium: The next symposium should be held not later than 2016. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for inventory specialists from around the world to present research that is relevant to national forest inventories, with an emphasis on FIA focused research.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2014 User Group meeting is available for download.
  7. Pre-Meeting Documents
    • Biomass modeling/data collection effort pdf
    • Farm Bill provisions relating to FIA pdf
    • FIA Annual Report for 2013 pdf

2013 BWG/FIA TPO and Tree Planting Meeting in Atlanta, GA

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: As part of the National FIA User Group, the BWG and FIA met to discuss options for improving tree planting data and annualizing TPO.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here
  3. Presentations: Available meeting presentations are here.
  4. Attendees: See list of attendees here.
  5. Follow-up items and strong endorsements/concerns from the group:
    • Tree Planting: The estimates of acres planted each year are very useful. The group suggested that it would be even more useful if confidence intervals could be provided. Ratio estimators were proposed as one way to do this. However, ratio estimators would require collecting data on planting density in addition to number of seedlings. The group approved of efforts to collect information on species and broad owner category to enhance the tree planting data. In general, the group was pleased that FIA was helping to support this important work.

    • TPO: The recommendations at this meeting were similar to those from the National User Group Meeting. The group liked what the TPO program is doing in the South and would like to see other regions enhance their TPO survey efforts to be more in line with the South. The idea of maintaining a current national list of all wood using facilities was proposed. Such a list would facilitate implementing an annualized sampling scheme that would serve to harmonize efforts at a national scale and make the TPO program more compatible with the annual forest inventory. FIA should take advantage of similar data collection activities if they can avoid duplication of effort. For example, UGA is doing similar work that should be further investigated by FIA.

    • Budget Issues: A wide array of users with diverse interests derive value from FIA data. FIA data provide information about carbon, economic development opportunities, jobs, wildlife habitat and other environmental issues. The BWG group appreciates that FIA makes every effort to respond to user needs and requests. However, there is a limit to how much FIA can provide in the current budget environment. The group values tree planting and TPO data, but they value the FIA forest plot data even more. The group thought that the FIA plot intensity and remeasurement cycles are already too low and further reductions would seriously reduce the value of the program. In order to maintain current levels of forest plot data collection, and respond to emerging user needs, the FIA budget must be increased by 10 percent from the current level. The group proposed that a meeting be arranged with the Chief of the Forest Service to convey the critical nature of these needs and to request additional support for FIA.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2013 meeting is available for download.


2013 National FIA-User-Group Meeting in New Orleans, LA

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: To learn about recent progress in the FIA program and to provide an opportunity for FIA staff to hear from users.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here
  3. Presentations: Available meeting presentations are here.
  4. Attendees: See list of attendees here.
  5. Follow-up items and strong endorsements/concerns from the user group:
    • Put a firewall around the core FIA program: Generally, users are happy with the annual inventory, and they consider this to be the core FIA program. They don't object to FIA working in other areas, but they don't want funding for the core program to be used to support other activities. Urban inventory of trees in cooperating cities was a focal point of this discussion. User concerns were assuaged after FIA staff explained that urban funding would be specifically appropriated and FIA would train partners to do the field work. The core program should be clearly defined in the Strategic Plan.

    • Other user endorsed FIA activities:
      1. Timber Product Output Program: TPO is considered to be second in importance only to the core annual inventory program by many FIA users. TPO provides important data for economic development, sustainable forestry and jobs in the forest sector. Users encouraged FIA to develop a statistically sound TPO annualization method. Users also want TPO to be as active in all regions as it currently is in the Southern Region.

      2. National Woodland Owner Survey: Users value the NWOS, but would like to see it expanded to include information on all forest owners, not just family forest owners. In particular, TIMOs and REITs have become important forest land managers/owners and should be included in the NWOS.

      3. Urban Forest Inventory: This is a new area that FIA is moving into. Users understood that inventories of trees in cooperating cities could provide important data on forest carbon storage, biomass and recreational uses. Users were supportive of clearly defining the statistical methods, benefits, costs and funding opportunities for this activity. Users were concerned that funding from the core program could be diverted to urban inventory, which led to the interest in firewalls.

      4. Interior Alaska Inventory: Users viewed this as an opportunity to implement and test multistage sampling techniques using 3 phases of remote sensing and one ground sample phase in a region where the standard annual inventory design could not be justified for economic and logistical reasons. This method is expected to be cost effective and provide the first ever inventory of interior Alaska. See firewall comment.

    • Map Based Estimation: This refers to using k-nearest neighbor techniques to match FIA plots with pixels to provide the possibility of summing pixels to obtain statistical estimates for user defined polygons. Users could appreciate the potential of this method, but felt that FIA needs to provide reliable confidence limits and strongly caution clients about product limitations.

    • Tree Planting Data: Users approved of FIA helping to reestablish/improve efforts to collect data on tree planting. These data can be used to address concern that was expressed at this meeting about possible over-harvesting of small diameter plantation material. These data are important for preventing a forest sustainability problem in the long run.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2013 meeting is available for download.


2012 National FIA-User-Group Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: To learn about recent progress in the FIA program and to provide an opportunity for FIA staff to hear from users.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here
  3. Presentations: Abstracts and presentations are here.
  4. Attendees: See list of attendees here.
  5. Follow-up items suggested by the group:
    • Don't eliminate plots or change the basic design in response to budget cuts. The group felt that an increase in the cycle length would do the least damage to the program. This is consistent with opinions from previous user group meetings.
    • Timber Product Output Program - Methods to improve the program and enhance it's value for economic development and modeling should be sought. One possibility would be to develop an annual TPO system that is compatible nationally and with FIA's annual forest inventory.
    • Estimation issues:
      1. There should be a renewed effort to investigate alternatives to the simple moving average for improved trend detection and estimation.
      2. FIA should investigate methods that could be used to provide short term projections (5 to 10 years). For example, plots could be projected with hotdeck matching algorithms.
      3. There is currently a bias that results from methods used by FIA to estimate growth and removals by diameter class. A white paper should be developed to describe the problem and the solution. The solution should be implemented in FIA online tools.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2012 meeting is available for download.


2011 National FIA-User-Group Meeting in Sacramento, California

Meeting Overview

  1. Purpose: To learn about recent progress in the FIA program and to provide an opportunity for FIA staff to hear from users. A field trip was provided to allow users to learn about FIA field plot measurement techniques.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here.
  3. Attendees: The list of attendees is here
  4. The Field Trip: The group was very impressed by the professional manner in which FIA staff organized and conducted the field trip. It gave the participants new appreciation for the logistical and time requirements of this critical FIA activity. Serious consideration will be given to having a similar activity at the next meeting. Data from the FIA national grid of forested plots are the foundation of the FIA program.
  5. Presentations: You can view available presentations and author provided abstracts given in alphabetical order by authors last name.
  6. Follow-up items suggested by the group:
    • FIA should give a high priority to putting the National TPO data into a publicly available database that is analogous to the FIADB. A state from each region should be selected for a pilot test so this process can begin as soon as possible.
    • A biomass data collection effort should be planned and implemented, if adequate funding can be found. The purpose would be to develop improved regional and national biomass estimation methods.
    • FIA should create a series of options that can be used to respond efficiently to budget fluctuations. The purpose is to minimize the impact of budget rescissions and to ensure that budget increases will have maximum benefit to FIA users. Users suggested that the P3 data be reconsidered, that the P2 intensity not be reduced, and to not change the design.
  7. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2011 meeting is available for download.



2010 joint FIA-User-Group Meeting & Bioenergy/Biomass Workshop in Houston, Texas

  1. Purpose: The User Group meeting purpose was to learn about recent FIA progress and to provide input for improvements and new directions for FIA. The Biomass Workshop purpose was to discuss issues related to emerging concerns about uses of woody biomass for bioenergy and associated forest carbon requirements.
  2. Agenda: See the meeting agenda here.
  3. Attendees: The list of attendees is here
  4. Presentations: There were 30+ presentations given at these meetings. You can view available presentations and author provided abstracts given in alphabetical order by authors last name.
  5. Follow-up items suggested by the group:
    • FIA should attempt to put the National TPO dataset on the FIA Datamart site within 1 year (by March 2011)
    • FIA should conduct a follow-up study to demonstrate the accuracy and precision of the new aboveground live-tree biomass estimates
    • FIA should continue to conduct outreach toward new users
    • FIA should correct data that were found to have been erroneously recorded in a subsequent remeasurement, e.g. a slash pine was found to be a loblolly pine during remeasurement.
  6. Meeting Summary: A pdf summary of the 2010 meeting is available for download. This includes a brief FIA business report and the results of a survey done at the user group meeting that asked users to assess FIA's performance in a number of areas.


Archived Information about the Joint FIA User Group and Biometrics Working Group Meeting in New Orleans (2009) is found here. Information from earlier BWG meetings that discussed FIA issues is in the same archive.