Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heroes of forest inventory

If you have ever headed back to forest after dinner feeling that your sample plot quota for the day has not been fulfilled, this post is devoted to you. You are one of the heroes of forest inventory.

One very typical feature in planning of different forest inventories is that the amount of work needed to finish the campaign is underestimated. Usually the result is that the number of plots or measurements that have been made in the given time is considerably smaller than was planned. However, sometimes it happens that the field crew won’t submit to this, but finds extra energy to carry on with the work when others would have given up. In Joensuu, by far the most legendary example of this are the 474 Matalansalo sample plots, measured in August/September 2004 by Aki and Henri. Their epic work has thereafter inspired many Joensuu’s forest inventory students, and the data has been utilized in numerous studies in the field of airborne laser scanning.

What makes some of us capable of heroic inventory achievements? In practice, forest inventory work means long days in hostile forests, with an immense herd of blood-thirsty mosquitoes whining in your ears, dry spruce twigs stabbing your face, and rain or sweat soaking you wet every day. My feeling is that the motives include at least an extra-developed sense of responsibility and a will to show your superiors that you can reach the goals that you were given. What is clear is that this kind of behaviour is most typical to students, especially if they are gathering data for their own research project. The students at this summer's MARV1-course in Hyytiälä showed that the tradition is likely to continue – hopefully their extra motivation did not arise from pure compulsion, but from knowing that their data will used in real research. On the other hand, more senior field workers seldom bother to continue after their working hours are done – they do the work they are paid for properly and deserve all the respect, but researchers that have the courage to employ students may experience also positive surprises…

And what about my mensuration campaign this summer? The fact that I needed to take two extra weeks in Hyytiälä to finish all the planned measurements should tell everything.

Never let someone else choose your plot locations!

Field assistant establishing LAI-plot

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