Tree and forest measurement
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Tree and forest measurement

Whether it is a trailer load of firewood, a truckload of sawlogs or a trade in carbon credits the quality and quantity of any forest product need to be assessed. Both buyer and seller must agree on the product criteria and method of measurement. Being able to measure tree growth also provides farmers with an understanding of forest growth and productivity, and provides a basis for planning forest management actions.

This section provides an introduction to the measurement of trees and forests for timber production. It includes details on how to establish a measurement plot, how to measure tree diameter, height and stand basal area and how to calculate tree and stand volumes. Most of the methods outlined assume the use of cheap equipment and basic mathematical skills. Although the techniques have some limitations, and may not be appropriate where a high degree of accuracy is required, they are suitable for most farm forestry situations.

While the emphasis is on measuring forests, standing trees and logs for timber production, the same measures often form the basis of assessments of forest services such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity and water use in recharge areas.

Basic tree measurement tools

The most basic tool of forest measurement is the diameter tape. By wrapping the tape around the trunk of the tree the user can read off the diameter. Accurate measurement of tree height generally requires more sophisticated, and therefore expensive, equipment. However outlined here are some simple, inexpensive techniques for estimating tree height. They are suitable for many purposes. A good quality 20 or 30 metre tape (available from most hardware stores) and a calculator are all that is required to complete all the measurements outlined in this section.

Other equipment that is useful for tree measurement and data analysis include a pocket knife for measuring bark thickness and a computer loaded with simple spreadsheets to process tree data (see Spray cans of paint, pegs or marking tape are useful for permanently marking plots for re-measuring over time.

Measuring a single tree

Tree Basal area
Stand Basal Area
Tree Form
Standing tree volume
Estimating log volume on the ground

Measuring a forest of trees

Location, area and type of forest
Establishing sample plots
Stand measurements
Stocking Rate

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