Tree Survey: Point-Centered Quarter Sampling Method

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Overview

A number of methods are available for sampling forest communities. Point-centered quarter is one such method. It is used to gather information on the density, frequency, and coverage of tree species found in a forest. This information provides the ability to estimate the number of individual trees encountered, how often a certain tree occurs, how common the tree is compared to other trees, and the size of the tree. Compared to the standard plot analysis, the point-centered quarter method is more efficient, which is a major advantage. In a fixed-area plot sampling, a small portion of the total area of the forest is examined. In this small subsample, the density is determined directly by counting and identifying each tree. The ratio between size of the subplot and the overall forest size is used to determine the density for the entire forest.

Cite this Video

JoVE Science Education Database. Environmental Science. Tree Survey: Point-Centered Quarter Sampling Method. JoVE, Cambridge, MA, (2017).

Principles

In the point-centered quarter method, a point in the forest is identified and the area around it is separated into four quarters. In each quarter, the nearest tree with a diameter-at-breast-height (dbh) of ≥ 40 cm is identified. This is considered the “large tree” sample. In each quarter, the nearest tree with a dbh > 2.5 cm and < 40 cm is identified. This is considered the “small tree” sample. The dbh is the diameter (in cm) of a tree measured at 4½ feet above the existing grade. Identifying a large tree and small tree in each quadrant provides the ability to compare the overstory (the trees in a forest whose crowns constitute the highest layer of vegetation in a forest, typically forming the canopy) to the understory (vegetation growing beneath the forest canopy without penetrating it to any extent).

Using these measurements, the Basal Area and Importance Value of each tree species is calculated. The basal area is the cross-sectional area (in m2) of a single tree at breast height (4½ ft above the ground). The basal area of all trees of a species can be calculated to understand the species density in a site. This is used, instead of the number of trees per area, to take into account the size of the trees. The Importance Value of each species is calculated to understand the relative dominance of that species in a forest community. It is based on how commonly a species occurs across the forest, the total number of individuals of the species, and the total amount of forest area occupied by the species.

Procedure

1. Tree Survey

  1. Establish a 150 m transect in the forest.
  2. Place a stake every 50 m. Each stake (point) represents the center of four compass directions (N, E, W, S) that divide the sampling site into four quarters.
  3. In each quarter, the distance is measured from the stake to the nearest tree ≥ 40 cm, regardless of species. Only one large tree per quarter should be measured, so a total of 16 trees are recorded in the large tree category. Record the distance in cm for each.
  4. Collect a leaf sample from each tree. Be sure to note if the leaves are opposite, alternate, or wholred (Figure 1) before removing them. Place the sample on the herbarium paper, properly labeled with the tree number, and place in a plant press for later identification.
  5. Using a field measurement tape, measure the diameter of the tree at 4½ feet above the existing grade (dbh). Record the dbh. If using a dbh tape, read the diameter directly off the tape. If using a regular measuring tape, measure the circumference of the tree and then calculate the diameter using the formula C = π d.
  6. Repeat steps 1.3 – 1.5 for the nearest tree < 40 cm and > 2.5 cm in each quadrant. These trees are labeled the small tree category.
  7. Using the leaf samples, identify the species of each tree in the 16 large trees and the 16 small trees categories.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Examples of opposite, alternate, and whorled leaf arrangements.

2. Calculations

(Do separate analyses for large trees and small trees.)

  1. Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of large trees, regardless of species. Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of small trees, regardless of species.
  2. Calculate the average density (the number of trees/hectare) for both the large trees and the small trees.
           Equation 1
  3. Determine the density by species for both the large trees and small trees. Then, count the number of individuals in the sample for each species and record (Table 1). The total number of individuals counted is 16.
             Relative Density = (number of individuals of a species/16) x 100%
    And
             Density = (Relative Density/100) x Average Density
  4. Determine and record the basal area by species (Table 2).
    1. Convert the diameter measures into areas for all trees sampled (a = π r2).
    2. Calculate the mean basal area for each species, i.e. take the average.
    3. For each species, calculate the Basal Area and Relative Basal Area.
              Basal Area = Density x Average Basal Area
      And
              Relative Basal Area = (Basal Area / Total Basal Area) x 100
      The Total Basal Area is the total basal area for all species (sum all BAs).
  5. Determine and record frequency by species (Table 3).
            Frequency = (no. of points at which species occurs/total no. of points sampled)
    And
            Relative Frequency = (Frequency/Total Frequency for all species) x 100
    1. The frequency of each species is determined by comparing the number of points at which that species occurred out of the 4 points sampled. For example, if an American Elm is found at all 4 of the points, the frequency would be 4/4 = 1. If a Silver Maple is found at 2 of the 4 points, the frequency would be 2/4 = 0.5.
  6.  Calculate and record an Importance Value and Relative Importance Value by species (Table 4).
            Importance Value = Relative Density + Relative Frequency + Relative Basal Area
    And
            Relative Importance Value = (Importance Value /Total Imp. Value for all species) x100
  7. Make a graph that depicts the importance value for each species on the y-axis and the species on the x-axis. Place them on the y-axis in order of Increasing Importance values. There should be one line for large trees and one line for small trees.

Large Trees

# of individuals Relative Density (%) Density
(trees/hectare)
Species 1 _______
Species 2 _______
Species 3 _______
Species 4 _______
Species 5 _______
Species 6 _______

Small Trees

# of individuals Relative Density (%) Density
(trees/hectare)
Species 1 _______
Species 2 _______
Species 3 _______
Species 4 _______
Species 5 _______
Species 6 _______

Table 1. A table to fill out information regarding the density of large and small trees.

Large Trees

Average Basal Area
 (m2)
Basal Area
(m2)
Relative Basal Area
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Basal Area =

Small Trees

Average Basal Area
 (m2)
Basal Area
(m2)
Relative Basal Area
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Basal Area =

Table 2. A table to fill out information regarding the basal area of large and small trees.

Large Trees

# of points Frequency Relative Frequency
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Frequency =

Small Trees

# of points Frequency Relative Frequency
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Frequency =

Table 3. A table to fill out information regarding the frequency of large and small trees.

Large Trees

Relative
Density
Relative
Frequency
Relative
Basal
Area
Importance
Value
Relative
Importance
Value
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
Total IV =

Small Trees

Relative
Density
Relative
Frequency
Relative
Basal
Area
Importance
Value
Relative
Importance
Value
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
Total IV =

Table 4. A table to fill out information regarding the Importance Value and Relative Importance Value of large and small trees.

Tree surveys are important to evaluate biodiversity in forests and elucidate the structure and health of woodland areas. The point-centered quarter sampling method is a common technique used to quantify woodland composition.

Woodlands are an important natural resource, and help maintain the environment, while having an impact on the health and quality of life of human populations. A good understanding of the composition of forests is essential to maintaining this resource. If a forest is very diverse, it can minimize the impact from species-specific pests or disease. If invasive trees dominate the understory, this may indicate future displacement of native trees.

Point-centered quarter sampling is one commonly used method in forest communities. It is used to gather information on the density, frequency, and coverage of tree species found in a forest. Data collected via this method provide the ability to estimate how often a tree species occurs, how common species are relative to others, and the sizes of trees, which can give an estimation of age of the tree, and the space they occupy in the ecosystem.

The point-centered method has advantages over other tree survey types. It is more efficient than standard plot analysis because it requires only a small sampling across the woodland, as opposed to surveying all present trees. Though less labor intensive, it has been shown to provide comparable results.

This video will illustrate how to carry out a point-centered quarter sample, how to calculate related tree data, and how to analyze the findings of a point-centered quarter tree survey.

The point-centered quarter tree survey method produces three major quantitative measures for a specific tree species: Relative Density, Relative Frequency, and Relative Basal Area. These three values are then added together to give an "Importance Value" of that species, which can be converted into a "Relative Importance Value." This value gives a numerical quantification of the prevalence and abundance of a tree species within the forest.

Point-centered quarter method uses a tree measurement called Diameter at Breast Height, or DBH. This is measured at 4.5 ft above existing grade. After a survey location has been selected a transect is established, a point in the forest along that transect is chosen, and the area around it separated into four quarters. In each quarter, the nearest tree with a DBH of greater than 40 cm is identified. This collection is considered the large tree sample.

Next, in each quarter, the nearest tree with a DBH of greater than 2.5 cm, but below 40 cm is identified. These are labeled the small tree sample. Identifying a large tree and small tree in each quadrant allows comparison of the high, canopy forming overstory vegetation to the lower level understory growth.

Using these simple measurements, Basal Area and Importance Value of each tree species can be calculated. The Basal Area is the cross-sectional area of a single tree at DBH. Calculating the total basal area of all trees of a species is a more accurate way to understand species density, and is used instead of number of trees per site to take into account the size of the trees.

The Importance Value of each species is calculated to estimate the relative dominance of a particular species in a forest community. It takes into account how commonly a species occurs across the forest, total number of individuals of the species, and the total amount of forest area that the species occupies.

Now that we are familiar with the importance of tree surveys and the principles of point-centered quarter surveys, let's take a look at how these are carried out in the field.

Once a woodland site has been identified, establish a 150 m transect in the forest. This can begin anywhere in the woodland, but should preferably be away from the forest edge to minimize border effects from external sources, such as roads.

Place a stake every 50 m along the transect. Each stake represents the center of four compass directions that divide the sampling site into four quarters. These can be numbered by location from one end if desired.

In each quarter, the distance is measured from the stake to the nearest tree, of any species, larger than 40 cm in diameter. Only one large tree per quarter should be measured, so a total of 16 trees are recorded in the large tree category. Record the distance to the stake in centimeters for each.

At each measured tree, note if the leaves are arranged in an alternate, whorled, or opposite arrangement. Next, collect a leaf sample for each of the measured trees.

Place the leaf samples on herbarium paper and label according to collection site, then place in a plant press for later identification.

For each sample tree, using field measurement tape, record the DBH. If using specific DBH tape, read the diameter directly. With regular measuring tape, measure the tree circumference, then calculate the diameter using the formula.

Next, repeat these measurements for each quadrant, at each segment of the transect for the nearest tree less than 40 cm and greater than 2.5 cm in diameter. Record these in a separate category, labeled as small trees.

Back at the laboratory, calculate the mean point-to-tree distance, density, and basal area for each species. This information can then be used to generate the Importance Value. First, using a tree identification guide or ID key, identify each of the trees measured in both the large and small tree categories.

Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of large and small trees. This is the mean value for the distance of the tree group to the transect point.

Next, calculate the average density, or number of trees per hectare for both the large tree and small tree groups using the equation shown. Record the number of individuals of each tree species per group, then determine density by species for both the large tree and small tree group.

Convert the diameter measurements into areas for all trees sampled. Calculate the mean basal area for each species by calculating the average. The basal area of a species is the average basal area of that species times its density. Next, for each species, calculate the Relative Basal Area.

Determine the frequency at which each species occurs in each group. This is determined by comparing the number of points at which that species occurred out of the 4 points sampled. For example, if an American elm is found at all four points of a quadrant, frequency would equal 1. If a Silver Maple is found at 2 of 4 points, frequency would be equal to 0.5 Now, determine the relative frequency of each species, for each group.

The Importance Value of a species can now be calculated. Add the relative density to relative frequency plus relative basal area. Finally, determine the Relative Importance Value for each species.

To summarize, input these data into a graph that depicts the Importance Value for each species on the Y-axis, arranged in order of increasing importance, and the species name on the X-axis. The data should be presented as one bar for large trees and one bar for small trees.

The importance value of a species can reach a maximum of 300 in a survey where only one tree species is observed. High Importance Value does not necessarily mean a species is important to the health of the forest. Instead, it is merely an indication that the species is currently dominant in the forest structure.

Tree surveys are used to inform scientists or land managers on a variety of important topics. The point-centered quarter method may be applied in a variety of information gathering scenarios.

A community may benefit from a tree inventory to determine a need for a forestry program if there is a high frequency of dead or diseased trees in local woodland. Such trees can prove a health risk from falling branches, or an infection risk to others. Finding many dead or diseased trees in a forest would raise concerns for environmental scientists, and may be early indicators of poor environmental conditions including acid rain or ozone pollution.

Knowing species diversity in a forest can help land managers develop planting strategies. They may be informed to set guidelines to limit or eliminate planting of common trees while adding in new or uncommon beneficial species to maintain diversity. Data from a tree survey may also allow managers to calculate the worth of the services specific tree species provide, such as air pollution control or carbon capture and storage, and tailor planting strategies based upon these data.

You've just watched JoVE's introduction to Tree Surveying using the point-centered quarter method. You should now understand the importance of tree surveys, how to carry out a point-centered quarter survey, and how to calculate forest structure based on your survey measurements. Thanks for watching!

Results

The point-centered quarter tree survey method produces three quantitative measures: the relative density, the relative frequency, and the relative basal area. These three values are added together to give the Importance Value of that species. This is then converted to a relative importance value (Table 5).

The importance value of a species can reach a maximum of 300 in a survey that only finds one species present. A high importance value does not necessarily mean that the species is important to the health of the forest; it merely means that the species currently dominates the forest structure (Figure 2).

Trees are an important natural resource that help a city’s environment, health, and overall quality of life. Therefore, having a good understanding of the composition of the forest is essential to maintaining this resource. For example, if the forest is very diverse, it can help minimize the impact from a species-specific insect or disease. If the understory shows a high frequency of invasive trees, it may indicate that they are beginning to outcompete and displace the native trees.

Figure 4
Figure 2. A bar graph of the Importance Value of trees in Sommes Woods.

Data Table:  LARGE CATEGORY (dbh ≥ 40 cm)

Tree Number Point Number Quadrant Tree Species Distance from point Dbh
cm m cm m
1L 1 NE American Basswood 500 5.0 49.1 .491
2L 1 SE Silver Maple 12300 12.3 51.2 .512
3L 1 NW American Elm 530 5.3 72.3 .723
4L 1 SW Silver Maple 620 6.2 50.1 .501
5L 2 NE White Ash 890 8.9 49.3 .493
6L 2 SE Northern Red Oak 560 5.6 52.2 .522
7L 2 NW American Elm 10500 10.5 63.4 .634
8L 2 SW White Ash 12200 12.2 70.5 .705
9L 3 NE Northern Red Oak 750 7.5 42.2 .422
10L 3 SE American Elm 880 8.8 45.1 .451
11L 3 NW Northern Red Oak 13100 13.1 52.0 .520
12L 3 SW White Ash 14000 14.0 63.5 .635
13L 4 NE Silver Maple 10200 10.2 70.1 .701
14L 4 SE Silver Maple 650 6.5 72.6 .726
15L 4 NW White Ash 320 3.2 82.1 .821
16L 4 SW Northern Red Oak 12200 12.2 42.5 .425

Data Table:  SMALL CATEGORY (dbh < 40 cm)

Tree Number Point Number Quadrant Tree Species Distance from point Dbh
cm m cm m
1S 1 NE Sugar Maple 750 7.5 10.3 .103
2S 1 SE White Ash 520 5.2 12.1 .121
3S 1 NW White Ash 360 3.6 9.5 .095
4S 1 SW Amur Honeysuckle 650 6.5 14.1 .141
5S 2 NE European Buckthorn 330 3.3 3.4 .034
6S 2 SE White Ash 420 4.2 30.2 .302
7S 2 NW Sugar Maple 510 5.1 22.5 .225
8S 2 SW Amur Honeysuckle 660 6.6 17.2 .171
9S 3 NE Sugar Maple 810 8.1 31.1 .311
10S 3 SE Amur Honeysuckle 430 4.3 21.5 .215
11S 3 NW White Ash 370 3.7 18.0 .180
12S 3 SW European Buckthorn 470 4.7 5.6 .056
13S 4 NE European Buckthorn 820 8.2 6.2 .062
14S 4 SE European Buckthorn 650 6.5 8.5 .085
15S 4 NW European Buckthorn 490 4.9 9.1 .091
16S 4 SW Sugar Maple 310 3.1 13.3 .133

Table 5. A table detailing representative results gathered from the point-centered tree survey method.

Applications and Summary

Tree surveys are an important technique for both private and public stakeholders. They can provide helpful information to allow land managers to make informed decisions. A community may want to do a tree inventory to determine if there is a need for a forestry program. For example, the survey may reveal many dead or diseased trees (Figure 3) and indicate the need for more plantings. The survey may also help the community set up a maintenance schedule to prevent damage from hazardous trees. Lastly, the survey can help communities with land management decisions. Knowing the species diversity in a forest can allow the managers develop a plan for planting (Figure 4). For example, they can set guidelines such as, “Do not plant trees from a species that comprise more than x% of the forest.”

Tree surveys help quantify a forest’s value as a natural resource. Knowing the forest structure allows forest managers to calculate the worth of the services that the trees provide, such as air pollution control, carbon capture and storage, and energy use reductions.

Figure 5
Figure 3. A photo of a forest with potentially diseased trees. A tree survey could help detect the presence of dying trees, so managers could plant new trees to maintain forest levels.

Figure 6
Figure 4. A photo of a healthy, diverse forest. A tree survey could help managers develop a plan for planting proper trees to maintain levels particular species numbers (so one tree type doesn’t take over a forest, for example).

1. Tree Survey

  1. Establish a 150 m transect in the forest.
  2. Place a stake every 50 m. Each stake (point) represents the center of four compass directions (N, E, W, S) that divide the sampling site into four quarters.
  3. In each quarter, the distance is measured from the stake to the nearest tree ≥ 40 cm, regardless of species. Only one large tree per quarter should be measured, so a total of 16 trees are recorded in the large tree category. Record the distance in cm for each.
  4. Collect a leaf sample from each tree. Be sure to note if the leaves are opposite, alternate, or wholred (Figure 1) before removing them. Place the sample on the herbarium paper, properly labeled with the tree number, and place in a plant press for later identification.
  5. Using a field measurement tape, measure the diameter of the tree at 4½ feet above the existing grade (dbh). Record the dbh. If using a dbh tape, read the diameter directly off the tape. If using a regular measuring tape, measure the circumference of the tree and then calculate the diameter using the formula C = π d.
  6. Repeat steps 1.3 – 1.5 for the nearest tree < 40 cm and > 2.5 cm in each quadrant. These trees are labeled the small tree category.
  7. Using the leaf samples, identify the species of each tree in the 16 large trees and the 16 small trees categories.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Examples of opposite, alternate, and whorled leaf arrangements.

2. Calculations

(Do separate analyses for large trees and small trees.)

  1. Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of large trees, regardless of species. Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of small trees, regardless of species.
  2. Calculate the average density (the number of trees/hectare) for both the large trees and the small trees.
           Equation 1
  3. Determine the density by species for both the large trees and small trees. Then, count the number of individuals in the sample for each species and record (Table 1). The total number of individuals counted is 16.
             Relative Density = (number of individuals of a species/16) x 100%
    And
             Density = (Relative Density/100) x Average Density
  4. Determine and record the basal area by species (Table 2).
    1. Convert the diameter measures into areas for all trees sampled (a = π r2).
    2. Calculate the mean basal area for each species, i.e. take the average.
    3. For each species, calculate the Basal Area and Relative Basal Area.
              Basal Area = Density x Average Basal Area
      And
              Relative Basal Area = (Basal Area / Total Basal Area) x 100
      The Total Basal Area is the total basal area for all species (sum all BAs).
  5. Determine and record frequency by species (Table 3).
            Frequency = (no. of points at which species occurs/total no. of points sampled)
    And
            Relative Frequency = (Frequency/Total Frequency for all species) x 100
    1. The frequency of each species is determined by comparing the number of points at which that species occurred out of the 4 points sampled. For example, if an American Elm is found at all 4 of the points, the frequency would be 4/4 = 1. If a Silver Maple is found at 2 of the 4 points, the frequency would be 2/4 = 0.5.
  6.  Calculate and record an Importance Value and Relative Importance Value by species (Table 4).
            Importance Value = Relative Density + Relative Frequency + Relative Basal Area
    And
            Relative Importance Value = (Importance Value /Total Imp. Value for all species) x100
  7. Make a graph that depicts the importance value for each species on the y-axis and the species on the x-axis. Place them on the y-axis in order of Increasing Importance values. There should be one line for large trees and one line for small trees.

Large Trees

# of individuals Relative Density (%) Density
(trees/hectare)
Species 1 _______
Species 2 _______
Species 3 _______
Species 4 _______
Species 5 _______
Species 6 _______

Small Trees

# of individuals Relative Density (%) Density
(trees/hectare)
Species 1 _______
Species 2 _______
Species 3 _______
Species 4 _______
Species 5 _______
Species 6 _______

Table 1. A table to fill out information regarding the density of large and small trees.

Large Trees

Average Basal Area
 (m2)
Basal Area
(m2)
Relative Basal Area
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Basal Area =

Small Trees

Average Basal Area
 (m2)
Basal Area
(m2)
Relative Basal Area
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Basal Area =

Table 2. A table to fill out information regarding the basal area of large and small trees.

Large Trees

# of points Frequency Relative Frequency
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Frequency =

Small Trees

# of points Frequency Relative Frequency
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
TOTAL Total Frequency =

Table 3. A table to fill out information regarding the frequency of large and small trees.

Large Trees

Relative
Density
Relative
Frequency
Relative
Basal
Area
Importance
Value
Relative
Importance
Value
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
Total IV =

Small Trees

Relative
Density
Relative
Frequency
Relative
Basal
Area
Importance
Value
Relative
Importance
Value
Species 1 _______________
Species 2 _______________
Species 3 _______________
Species 4 _______________
Species 5 _______________
Species 6 _______________
Total IV =

Table 4. A table to fill out information regarding the Importance Value and Relative Importance Value of large and small trees.

Tree surveys are important to evaluate biodiversity in forests and elucidate the structure and health of woodland areas. The point-centered quarter sampling method is a common technique used to quantify woodland composition.

Woodlands are an important natural resource, and help maintain the environment, while having an impact on the health and quality of life of human populations. A good understanding of the composition of forests is essential to maintaining this resource. If a forest is very diverse, it can minimize the impact from species-specific pests or disease. If invasive trees dominate the understory, this may indicate future displacement of native trees.

Point-centered quarter sampling is one commonly used method in forest communities. It is used to gather information on the density, frequency, and coverage of tree species found in a forest. Data collected via this method provide the ability to estimate how often a tree species occurs, how common species are relative to others, and the sizes of trees, which can give an estimation of age of the tree, and the space they occupy in the ecosystem.

The point-centered method has advantages over other tree survey types. It is more efficient than standard plot analysis because it requires only a small sampling across the woodland, as opposed to surveying all present trees. Though less labor intensive, it has been shown to provide comparable results.

This video will illustrate how to carry out a point-centered quarter sample, how to calculate related tree data, and how to analyze the findings of a point-centered quarter tree survey.

The point-centered quarter tree survey method produces three major quantitative measures for a specific tree species: Relative Density, Relative Frequency, and Relative Basal Area. These three values are then added together to give an "Importance Value" of that species, which can be converted into a "Relative Importance Value." This value gives a numerical quantification of the prevalence and abundance of a tree species within the forest.

Point-centered quarter method uses a tree measurement called Diameter at Breast Height, or DBH. This is measured at 4.5 ft above existing grade. After a survey location has been selected a transect is established, a point in the forest along that transect is chosen, and the area around it separated into four quarters. In each quarter, the nearest tree with a DBH of greater than 40 cm is identified. This collection is considered the large tree sample.

Next, in each quarter, the nearest tree with a DBH of greater than 2.5 cm, but below 40 cm is identified. These are labeled the small tree sample. Identifying a large tree and small tree in each quadrant allows comparison of the high, canopy forming overstory vegetation to the lower level understory growth.

Using these simple measurements, Basal Area and Importance Value of each tree species can be calculated. The Basal Area is the cross-sectional area of a single tree at DBH. Calculating the total basal area of all trees of a species is a more accurate way to understand species density, and is used instead of number of trees per site to take into account the size of the trees.

The Importance Value of each species is calculated to estimate the relative dominance of a particular species in a forest community. It takes into account how commonly a species occurs across the forest, total number of individuals of the species, and the total amount of forest area that the species occupies.

Now that we are familiar with the importance of tree surveys and the principles of point-centered quarter surveys, let's take a look at how these are carried out in the field.

Once a woodland site has been identified, establish a 150 m transect in the forest. This can begin anywhere in the woodland, but should preferably be away from the forest edge to minimize border effects from external sources, such as roads.

Place a stake every 50 m along the transect. Each stake represents the center of four compass directions that divide the sampling site into four quarters. These can be numbered by location from one end if desired.

In each quarter, the distance is measured from the stake to the nearest tree, of any species, larger than 40 cm in diameter. Only one large tree per quarter should be measured, so a total of 16 trees are recorded in the large tree category. Record the distance to the stake in centimeters for each.

At each measured tree, note if the leaves are arranged in an alternate, whorled, or opposite arrangement. Next, collect a leaf sample for each of the measured trees.

Place the leaf samples on herbarium paper and label according to collection site, then place in a plant press for later identification.

For each sample tree, using field measurement tape, record the DBH. If using specific DBH tape, read the diameter directly. With regular measuring tape, measure the tree circumference, then calculate the diameter using the formula.

Next, repeat these measurements for each quadrant, at each segment of the transect for the nearest tree less than 40 cm and greater than 2.5 cm in diameter. Record these in a separate category, labeled as small trees.

Back at the laboratory, calculate the mean point-to-tree distance, density, and basal area for each species. This information can then be used to generate the Importance Value. First, using a tree identification guide or ID key, identify each of the trees measured in both the large and small tree categories.

Calculate the mean point-to-tree distance for the entire sample of large and small trees. This is the mean value for the distance of the tree group to the transect point.

Next, calculate the average density, or number of trees per hectare for both the large tree and small tree groups using the equation shown. Record the number of individuals of each tree species per group, then determine density by species for both the large tree and small tree group.

Convert the diameter measurements into areas for all trees sampled. Calculate the mean basal area for each species by calculating the average. The basal area of a species is the average basal area of that species times its density. Next, for each species, calculate the Relative Basal Area.

Determine the frequency at which each species occurs in each group. This is determined by comparing the number of points at which that species occurred out of the 4 points sampled. For example, if an American elm is found at all four points of a quadrant, frequency would equal 1. If a Silver Maple is found at 2 of 4 points, frequency would be equal to 0.5 Now, determine the relative frequency of each species, for each group.

The Importance Value of a species can now be calculated. Add the relative density to relative frequency plus relative basal area. Finally, determine the Relative Importance Value for each species.

To summarize, input these data into a graph that depicts the Importance Value for each species on the Y-axis, arranged in order of increasing importance, and the species name on the X-axis. The data should be presented as one bar for large trees and one bar for small trees.

The importance value of a species can reach a maximum of 300 in a survey where only one tree species is observed. High Importance Value does not necessarily mean a species is important to the health of the forest. Instead, it is merely an indication that the species is currently dominant in the forest structure.

Tree surveys are used to inform scientists or land managers on a variety of important topics. The point-centered quarter method may be applied in a variety of information gathering scenarios.

A community may benefit from a tree inventory to determine a need for a forestry program if there is a high frequency of dead or diseased trees in local woodland. Such trees can prove a health risk from falling branches, or an infection risk to others. Finding many dead or diseased trees in a forest would raise concerns for environmental scientists, and may be early indicators of poor environmental conditions including acid rain or ozone pollution.

Knowing species diversity in a forest can help land managers develop planting strategies. They may be informed to set guidelines to limit or eliminate planting of common trees while adding in new or uncommon beneficial species to maintain diversity. Data from a tree survey may also allow managers to calculate the worth of the services specific tree species provide, such as air pollution control or carbon capture and storage, and tailor planting strategies based upon these data.

You've just watched JoVE's introduction to Tree Surveying using the point-centered quarter method. You should now understand the importance of tree surveys, how to carry out a point-centered quarter survey, and how to calculate forest structure based on your survey measurements. Thanks for watching!

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