Publication Details

Integrating urban and national forest inventory data in support of rural-urban assessments

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Westfall, James A.; Patterson, Paul L.; Edgar, Christopher B.

Year Published



Forestry. 91: 641-649.


Due to the interest in status and trends in forest resources, many countries conduct a national forest inventory (NFI). To better understand the characteristics of woody vegetation in areas that are typically not forested, there is an increasing emphasis on urban inventory efforts where all trees both within and outside forest areas are measured. Often, these two inventories are entirely independent endeavours from data collection through analytical reporting. To holistically explore landscape-scale phenomena across the rural-urban gradient, there is a need to combine information from both sources. In this paper, methods for combining these two data sources are examined using data from an urban inventory conducted in Austin, Texas, USA, and NFI data collected in the same and surrounding areas. Approaches to aggregating areas based on sampling intensity and plot design combinations are of considerable importance for the validity of the estimation. An additional complexity can also arise due to temporal discrepancies between the two data sources. Thus, it is imperative to accurately identify all the existing sampling intensity/plot design combinations within the population of interest. Once this difficulty is surmounted, there still exist aggregation methods that will produce erroneous results. Statistically valid variance estimation arises from maintaining independence of the two samples. This approach satisfies both the proportional allocation among strata requirement as well as the necessary partitioning of the two plot designs. Difficulty in interpretation of results can also be encountered due to differences in measurement protocols across aggregated areas. Thus, analysts should have an in-depth understanding of data sources and the differences between them to avoid unintended errors. The need for rural-urban assessments are expected to increase dramatically as urban areas expand and issues such as land conversion, wildland fire and invasive species spread become of further importance.


national forest inventory (NFI); wildland fire; rural-urban assessments; land conversion; invasive species


Westfall, James A.; Patterson, Paul L.; Edgar, Christopher B. 2018. Integrating urban and national forest inventory data in support of rural-urban assessments. Forestry. 91: 641-649.

Last updated on: October 1, 2019