Small area estimation is a growing area of research for making inferences over geographic, demographic, or temporal domains smaller than those in which a particular survey data set was originally intended to be used. We aimed to review a body of literature to summarize the breadth and depth of small area estimation and related estimation strategies in forest inventory and management to-date, as well as the current state of terminology, methods, concerns, data sources, research findings, challenges, and opportunities for future work relevant to forestry and forest inventory research. Estimation methodologies explored include direct, indirect, and composite estimation within design-based and model-based inference bases. A variety of estimation methods in forestry have been applied to extensive multi-resource inventory systems like national forest inventories to increase the precision of estimates on small domains or subsets of the overall populations of interest. To avoid instability and large variances associated with small sample sizes when working with small area domains, forest inventory data are often supplemented with information from auxiliary sources, especially from remote sensing platforms and other geospatial, map-based products. Results from many studies show gains in precision compared to direct estimates based only on field inventory data. Gains in precision have been demonstrated in both project-level applications and national forest inventory systems. Potential gains are possible over varying geographic and temporal scales, with the degree of success in reducing variance also dependent on the types of auxiliary information, scale, strength of model relationships, and methodological alternatives, leaving considerable opportunity for future research and growth in small area applications for forest inventory.
Dettmann, Garret T.; Radtke, Philip J.; Coulston, John W.; Green, P. Corey; Wilson, Barry T.; Moisen, Gretchen G. 2022. Review and Synthesis of Estimation Strategies to Meet Small Area Needs in Forest Inventory. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. 5: 599-. https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2022.813569.