Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A primer of nonresponse in the US Forest Inventory and Analysis program

Formally Refereed
Authors: Paul L. Patterson, John W. Coulston, Francis A. Roesch, James A. Westfall, Andrew D. Hill
Year: 2012
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
Source: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 184(3): 1423-1433.


Nonresponse caused by denied access and hazardous conditions are a concern for the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, whose mission is to quantify status and trends in forest resources across the USA. Any appreciable amount of nonresponse can cause bias in FIA's estimates of population parameters. This paper will quantify the magnitude of nonresponse and describe the mechanisms that result in nonresponse, describe and qualitatively evaluate FIA's assumptions regarding nonresponse, provide a recommendation concerning plot replacement strategies, and identify appropriate strategies to pursue that minimize bias. The nonresponse rates ranged from 0% to 21% and differed by land owner group; with denied access to private land the leading cause of nonresponse. Current FIA estimators assume that nonresponse occurs at random. Although in most cases this assumption appears tenable, a qualitative assessment indicates a few situations where the assumption is not tenable. In the shortterm, we recommend that FIA use stratification schemes that make the missing at random assumption tenable. We recommend the examination of alternative estimation techniques that use appropriate weighting and auxiliary information to mitigate the effects of nonresponse. We recommend the replacement of nonresponse sample locations not be used.


missing data, post-stratification, non-sampling error, replacement procedure, bias


Patterson, Paul L.; Coulston, John W.; Roesch, Francis A.; Westfall, James A.; Hill, Andrew D. 2012. A primer of nonresponse in the US Forest Inventory and Analysis program. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 184(3): 1423-1433.