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Digital data collection in forest dynamics plots

Formally Refereed
Authors: Faith Inman-Narahari, Christian Giardina, Rebecca Ostertag, Susan Cordell, Lawren Sack
Year: 2010
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 1: 274–279


1. Computers are widely used in all aspects of research but their application to in-field data collection for forest plots has rarely been evaluated.
2. We developed digital data collection methods using ESRI mapping software and ruggedized field computers to map and measure ~30 000 trees in two 4-ha forest dynamics plots in wet and dry tropical forest in Hawaii. We then compared our data collection and entry effort with published values for other forest dynamics plots with the same tree measurement protocols to estimate the efficiency of our methods relative to the more typical use of paper data collection sheets.
3. In-field data collection effort was comparable for all plots. However, use of digital methods resulted in an average 11·8%reduction in total effort due to reduced secondary data entry time.
4. The digital data collection methods described in this article can be applied to a wide range of ecological projects, especially long-term research or monitoring projects where mapping can be integrated into data collection.


Center for Tropical Forest Science, digital data collection, ecology methods, forest dynamics plots, Hawaii


Inman-Narahari, Faith; Giardina, Christian; Ostertag, Rebecca; Cordell, Susan; Sack, Lawren. 2010. Digital data collection in forest dynamics plots. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 1: 274 279.