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Bridging national and reference definitions for harmonizing forest statistics

Göran Ståhl, Emil Cienciala, Gherardo Chirici, Adrian Lanz, Claude Vidal, Susanne Winter, Ronald E. McRoberts, Jacques Rondeux, Klemens Schadauer, Erkki Tomppo

Harmonization is the process of making information and estimates comparable across administrative borders. The degree to which harmonization succeeds depends on many factors, including the conciseness of the definitions, the availability and quality of data, and the methods used to convert an estimate according to a local definition to an estimate according to the reference definition. Harmonization requires the availability and use of common reference definitions and methods for converting from estimates based on national definitions to estimates based on reference definitions. This article focuses on conversion methods, which are characterized as “bridges” because they can be seen as a means of crossing from islands of local definitions to the mainland of a reference definition. A structured approach is proposed for constructing bridges of three kinds: reductive, neutral, and expansive bridges. A hierarchical decision tree is presented to guide users and to summarize the propositions and case examples with different types of bridges to illustrate the concepts. Although the article addresses harmonization of forest information, the results are relevant for harmonizing a broad variety of area statistics.

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Case example: a reductive bridge for biodiversity in European forests. Whittaker (1972) defined three spatial types of biodiversity: alpha diversity, which refers to ecosystem diversity; beta diversity, which refers to the change in diversity between ecosystems; and gamma diversity, which refers to the overall diversity for different ecosystems within a region. [...] harmonization of estimates of these indicators requires a reference definition that specifies a minimum diameter and a plot radius. In this case, selection of reference definition thresholds for the two core variables depends on the ability or inability to construct bridges. In particular, although expansive bridges may produce acceptable conversions in aggregate for large areas, they are too imprecise and possibly biased for predicting numbers of individual trees and their species, diameters, and heights, which is required for alpha forest structural diversity assessments. Therefore, the thresholds for the core variables for the reference definition must be the greatest minimum diameter and the least plot radius among the inventories whose estimates are to be harmonized. [...] Because the reference definition minimum diameter is the greatest minimum diameter among the inventories, bridges for this component are all reductive, i.e., simply disregard data for each tree whose diameter is less than minimum diameter in the reference definition. Bridges to accommodate differences in plot radii are likewise reductive, i.e., simply disregard data for each tree whose distance from plot center is greater than the reference definition for plot radius. However, whereas no additional information is necessary for the minimum diameter component of the bridge, accommodating differences in plot radii requires information for an auxiliary variable, namely distance between individual trees and plot center. [...] progress toward standardization would greatly enhance the credibility of harmonized estimates for this type of information. [...]

Forest Science (June 2012), pp. 214-223, 
Key: INRMM:13095097



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