Determination of merchantable wood volume is one of the key preconditions for sustainable forest management. This study explores accuracy of calibrated predictions of merchantable wood volume of Norway spruce (Picea abies
(L.) H. Karst.) using stem taper curves (STC) in a form of a mixed model. Background and Objectives:
The study is devoted to the determination of merchantable wood volume (over bark) of individual standing stems based on the integration of an STC model calibrated using upper diameter measurements. Various options of upper diameter measurement were tested and their impact on the accuracy of merchantable wood volume prediction was evaluated. Materials and Methods:
To model stem taper curves, a Kozak 02 function was applied in a form of a nonlinear, mixed effects model. Accuracies of calibrated merchantable wood volume predictions obtained through remote (optical) upper diameter measurements were compared to accuracies corresponding to contact measurements by a caliper. The performance of two alternative methods used in the Czech National Forest Inventory (NFI) and forestry practice, involving diameter at breast height and total tree height as the only predictors, were also tested. The contact measurements were performed at identical stem positions after felling the respective sample tree. The calibration was done in order to account for factors inherent in particular location, and, optionally, also in a particular sample stem (within the respective location). Input data was sourced as part of a dedicated survey involving the entire territory of the Czech Republic. In total, 716 individual spruce trees were measured, felled and analysed at 169 locations. Results:
In general, the best merchantable volume predictions were obtained by integrating the STC fitted (and calibrated) by minimising errors of stem cross-sectional areas instead of diameters. In terms of calibrated predictions, using single-directional, caliper measurement of upper diameter at 7 m (after felling) led to the best accuracy. In this case, the observed mean bias of merchantable volume prediction was only 0.63%, indicating underestimation. The best optical calibration strategy involved upper diameter measurements at two heights (5 and 7 m) simultaneously. Bias of this volume prediction approach was estimated at 2.1%, indicating underestimation. Conclusions:
Concerning the prediction of merchantable stem volume of standing Norway spruce trees, STC calibration using two optical upper diameter measurements (at 5 and 7 m) was found to be practically applicable, provided a bias up to 3.7% can be accepted. This method was found to be more accurate than the existing national alternatives using diameter at breast height and the total tree height as the only predictors.
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