Harmonisation of stem volume estimates in European National Forest Inventories

Volume predictions of sample trees are basic inputs for essential National Forest Inventory (NFI) estimates. The predicted volumes are rarely comparable among European NFIs because of country-specific dbh-thresholds and differences regarding the inclusion of the tree parts stump, stem top, and branches. Twenty-one European NFIs implemented harmonisation measures to provide consistent stem volume predictions for comparable forest resource estimates.

Context The harmonisation of forest information has become increasingly important. International programs and interest groups from the wood industry, energy, and environmental sectors require comparable information. European NFIs as primary source of forest information are well-placed to support policies and decision-making processes with harmonised estimates.
Aims The main objectives were to present the implementation of stem volume harmonisation by European NFIs, to obtain comparable growing stocks according to five reference definitions, and to compare the different results.
Methods The applied harmonisation approach identifies the deviations between country-level and common reference definitions. The deviations are minimised through country-specific bridging functions. Growing stocks were calculated from the un-harmonised, and harmonised stem volume estimates and comparisons were made.
Results The country-level growing stock results differ from the Cost Action E43 reference definition between − 8 and + 32%. Stumps and stem tops together account for 4 to 13% of stem volume, and large branches constitute 3 to 21% of broadleaved growing stock. Up to 6% of stem volume is allocated below the dbh-threshold.
Conclusion Comparable volume figures are available for the first time on a large-scale in Europe. The results indicate the importance of harmonisation for international forest statistics. The presented work contributes to the NFI harmonisation process in Europe in several ways regarding comparable NFI reporting and scenario modelling.

Sample-based inventories, dbh-threshold, Volume models, Reference definition, Growing stock, International reporting

Open Access Publication
Gschwantner, T., Alberdi, I., Balázs, A. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 24. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13595-019-0800-8

Data availability
The implementation of stem volume harmonisation was conducted by the NFIs themselves. No common data set was compiled and therefore cannot be made available. The value of the manuscript is rather the presentation of the implementation and the approaches than the data sources.

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