Wedge Prism and Basal area calculation

Stand Basal Area is a useful parameter for the forest mensurationist because it is relatively easily
collected and can be related to many other parameters of interest (e.g. site density and stand
volume). The internationally accepted symbol for stand basal area is G (m^2 ha^-1) and for tree
basal area, g (m^2). G is an important reference variable for a stand and is particularly useful in
quantitative description.
G values commonly range from 10 to 60 m^2 ha^-1 in both coniferous and hardwood forests. In
rare cases, G values of 150 m^2 ha^-1 may be reached on exceptionally good sites.
G is the sum of the basal areas of all (living) trees, in the stand. G is derived by reference to
tables or by summation by calculator:
G (square metres) = 0.000 078 539 8 x d^2, where d is DBH in cm.
Note: 0.000 078 539 8 is (PI/40 000). The division by 40 000 corrects for the difference in units
(cm and m) and diameter to radius.
G is usually expressed over bark and on a unit area basis, e.g. m^2 / ha.
Stand mean BA is also a useful stand variable. It is calculated as G/N, where N is the number of
trees in the stand. The diameter equivalent to g is called the QUADRATIC MEAN DBH:
dg = sqrt( (G / N) x 40000 / PI)
where dg is the international symbol for quadratic mean DBH.
The quadratic mean DBH is preferable to the arithmetic mean DBH as a size parameter of trees
in a stand because of the additional weight it gives to the larger diameters.

Estimating stand basal area
The basal area of a forest stand is estimated by sampling in one of two ways:

fixed area plots

variable radius plots. Also known as angle count or point sampling as well as other

Fixed area plots
The DBH of each tree is measured using circular, rectangular or square sample units (plots) and
mean stand basal area (G) is determined by totalling the basal area of each tree in the plot, and

it is more efficient to select the larger units with greater probability. where inclusion of a tree in the count depends on the basal area of the tree and its proximity to the sampling point. Its application was recognised by Cromer (1952) in Australia and Grosenbaugh (1952) in the USA ahead of European foresters. namely:  Angle count sampling  Point sampling  PPS sampling  Variable radius plot sampling (VRP sampling)  Plotless cruising or plotless survey. Angle count sampling When a population mean depends more on the size of large compared with small units. This principle has been applied to various forest sampling problems but most notably to estimating basal area per unit area by angle counting. Bitterlich in the late 1930s and perfected in the late 1940s. while larger trees will be included at even greater distances. In the literature.dividing by the area of the plot. The method was developed by an Austrian forester Dr W. Angle count sampling estimates G per unit area of a stand without measuring:  the g of any tree in the stand or  the area of ground surface sampled. Angle count sampling procedure  Select the angle count spot  Count within a complete circular sweep the number of trees whose diameters at breast height subtend angles at the operator o larger than a certain reference angle (n1) . Sampling using fixed area plots is not as efficient as angle count sampling for estimating G. it is referred to under various names. ie small trees are not included if they are some distance from the sampling point. This technique is called PPS Sampling or sampling with Probability Proportional to Size.

00001 * 10000 (m^2/ha) 1 (m^2/ha) cm tree contribution: 4 * (PI * 0. Now that is the important part of the matter! We have set up our plot dimensions so that each tree of X cm DBH adds 1 m^2/ha to the stand basal area if it .05^2) / (PI * 5^2) (m^2/m^2) 0.00001 (m^2/m^2) 4 * 0.  Add n1 and 0. Using the same calculations as above therefore.196 m^2 (= PI * Radius^2 ). 15 or 20 m radius plot adds 1 m^2/ha to the overall stand basal area.196 / 1960 (m^2/m^2) 4 * 0. For example. Now imagine that we established our plots and found that there were 3 small trees within the 5 m radius plot and 4 large trees within the 25 m radius plot. A single 10 cm DBH tree only has a basal area of 0. 30 or 40 cm DBH tree that is within its 10.g. Principle of angle count method A simple "mind experiment" might help explain the principle of the method: Imagine that there exists a forest with only small and large diameter trees (e.5 (m^2/m^2) 0. 15 and 20 m radius respectively. but do not want to miss the big values contributed by the large trees. we would find that each 20.o equal to a certain reference angle (n2). our imaginary forest above might also have trees of 20.00785 m^2 while each 50 cm tree is 0. 30 and 40 cm DBH which we could sample in circular plots of 10. The stand basal area would be calculated as: = = = = = 50 = = = = = 3 3 3 3 3 * * * * * 10 cm tree contribution: = 3 * (PI * Radius(tree)^2 ) / (PI * Radius(plot)^2) (m^2/m^2) (PI * 0. We could therefore establish a range of plots for all the different DBH classes.00001 * 10000 (m^2/ha) 4 * 1 (m^2/ha) Stand basal area (m^2/m^2) = 3 + 4 (m2/ha) = 7 (m2/ha) But of course a real forest would have trees of a range of DBH values. so we use 2 circular plots of 5 m and 25 m radius and measure only small and large trees respectively within each plot. We do not want to waste time measuring too many small trees.5 x n2 and then multiply the result by a factor (BAF) appropriate to the reference angle.00001 (m^2/m^2) 0. 10 cm and 50 cm DBH respectively) for which we want to determine stand basal area.00785 / 78.25^2) / (PI * 25^2) 4 * 0.

we no longer even need to know what is the value of X. the following argument may help explain the pinciples: Assume:  the ground is level  an observer is standing Y metres from a tree of radius R metres. 6 or 9 m away from the centre. Spiegal Relakop or similar instrument simply helps determine if the ratio of DBH : Distance away exceeds the critical ratio and therefore whether the tree is within the plot and adds to the estimate of stand basal area. Dendrometer II. If the ratio of DBH : Distance is greater than 2 cm : 1 m (1 : 500).a 20 cm tree right at the centre is no more or less within the plot than a similar tree that is 3. Now:  The area of acceptance for trees of radius R is = (PI x Y^2/10 000) ha (This is the area within which a tree of radius R will appear "bigger" than the 2L stick. then the tree of whatever DBH is within its respective plot and that tree adds another 1 m^2/ha to the estimate of the total stand basal within a radius X/2 m of the plot centre . An optical wedge. Thus. Alternatively.)  and the basal area of a tree of radius R is = (PI x R^2) m^2  If then there are n trees are of size R. In fact. Note that a tree of X cm DBH is within its respective plot when the ratio of DBH : Distance from centre exceeds 2 * X cm : X m. Thus a tree of 20 cm DBH is counted if it is anywhere from 10 m away right up to the exact plot centre! A tree is either in or out of the plot . then the basal area of these trees is = n x PI x R^2 (m^2)  The stand basal area (G) of these n trees is then = n x PI x R^2/(PI x Y^2/10 000) (m^2/ha) = n x 10 000 x R^2 / Y^2 (cancelling out PI) . He is holding X metres from his eye a horizontal stick 2L metres long which is at right angles to his line of sight to the tree.where X is any number. All we need to know is whether the ratio of DBH to distance from the plot centre is greater than 2 cm : 1 m. the angle Q depends on X and L.

hold the wedge precisely over the angle count spot at all times. When using an angle gauge. this reference angle is compared with the angle subtended at a fixed point (the angle count spot) by the sides of a tree (usually at breast height). In contrast. then is is easier to determine if the reference angle is exceeded.  When using a wedge prism.3 m so that the correct height for measurement is easily seen. Instruments include:  Relaskop  Wedge Prism  Calibrated thumb or other angle generating device Practical aspects when using angle count instruments  When sweeping. the angle is generated at the observer's eye and so the user's eye must be precisely above the angle count spot. This point. the basal area (m^2/ha) = m x 10 000 Sin^2Q  Thus. is where the reference angle is generated. (which is the equivalent to 10 000 x R^2 / Y^2) is known as the basal area factor or BAF. thumb. instruments used in angle count sampling procedures are termed angle gauges. Built into each gauge is a certain reference angle. G = n x 10 000 x Sin^2Q  If there are also m trees of radius S.. An experienced observer only needs the 'T' piece in the borderline situation. etc. . total G = N 10 000 Sin^2Q where N denotes all the trees with a radius that appears bigger than 2L. If the subtended angle is larger than the reference angle. then the tree is included in the angle count. when using the Spiegel Relaskop. The value 10 000 Sin^2Q. use an assistant carrying a 'T' piece to define the DBH point. or alternatively by trigonometry. and not the observer's eye. Stand basal area = N x BAF. Angle count instruments Collectively. This error can be avoided in plantation stands by proceeding by rows. The cross bar of 'T' is a 1. If the T piece is positioned behind the tree so that the arms of the T extend beyond either side of the bole.  Trees can be missed in sweeping dense stands.

In Australian forests. A large factor instrument (high strength) will result in a low count with less likelihood of a wrong count but a large error if a wrong count is made. A small factor instrument (low strength) will result in a count of many trees with a greater likelihood of a wrong count but a relatively small error from a wrong count. i.  The number of borderlines (i.  Too many 'IN' trees in a sweep makes the assessment rather tedious whilst too few leads to relatively low precision. When using a wedge prism. o compare this calculated limiting distance (LD) with the actual distance (D) from the centre of the tree to the sampling point:  If D > LD.e. should not exceed 10% of the total count. one must compromise in selecting the BAF to use. View through the centre of the wedge. the tree is OUT (not counted)  If D = LD.1%. A satisfactory compromise is a count of 7-12 trees per sample point. Should not such a decision be made with extreme care?  Trees wrongly counted lead to an error in BA estimation equal to the BAF in m^2 / ha. the maximum distance (LD) from the angle count point within which a tree of that d is counted. If that one tree is a doubtful/near borderline tree and it is worth $20 on the stump. basal area per hectare of fully stocked stands frequently lies . These precautions are necessary to avoid error. then $20 000 hinges on the decision whether the tree is 'in' or 'out'. trees not clearly greater or smaller than the reference angle). The only reliable way to avoid operator bias with borderline trees is to: o measure tree DBHOB (d) o calculate for the BAF of the angle count instrument. one tree in a sweep actually represents at least 1000 trees in the population. o NOTE: Checking borderline trees when sweeping with a Spiegel Relaskop requires measurement of slope angle as well as dbhob.  Thus. we have a true borderline (count as half)  If D < LD. hold the wedge in a vertical position at any convenient distance from the eye and at right angles to the line of sight. o LD = d / (2 x sqrt(BAF)) (d in cm and D in m). Anglecount sampling is often used in resource inventory where the intensity of sampling is much less than 0. in general.e.  One cannot overstress the need to check borderline trees by direct measurement. the tree is IN.

(If the structure of the forest is heterogeneous. one will try to . One way to prevent such personal bias is to pace out part of the distance only and measure the last 20 metres or so by tape. from this spot. say. separate basal area estimates can be made sfor each species by keeping a separate tally. each point within the stand qualifies as an independent sample point. two points only a metre apart could provide two independent estimates of basal area for a given stand even though the individual trees included in both samples may be the same or differ by only one or two trees.e. an acceptable procedure is to stratify the forest prior to assessment and select a gauge of appropriate strength for each stratum).e. Then. Then measure the horizontal distance from the angle count spot perpendicular to the forest margin. For sample points near the forest margin. Determine the maximum slope (Q) that goes through the angle sample point and correct the estimated stand basal area: G = N x BAF x Sec(Q) Note that the Speigal Relaskop corrects automatically for slope so this correction is not needed. For heavily thinned stands and young poorly stocked crops. particularly if they are borderline. Stand density at the point in the forest is then derived by summing the two estimates. In this case. make another 360 sweep. One hopes that in a full sweep. In practice. however.  Check for slope and correct if necessary.  Bias is also likely with LEANING or ECCENTRIC stems. Alternatively. With leaning stems. This eliminates bias.g. boundary of stand) accept 180 or 90 sweeps when necessary and weight the estimate accordingly. keeping to the exact bearing. Establishing angle count spots  If the basal area of a forest stand is required. Statistically speaking. move sideways on the radius. i. If a stand is composed of several species. The latter is the more serious and nothing can be done about it. x 2 or x 4 (Grosenbaugh's method). i.  Be alert for dead trees which normally would be excluded from assessment. Extend the line an equal horizontal distance into the area beyond the margin and locate the "mirage" angle count spot. select a number of points either systematically (point-sampling grid on a map) or by some random process. the errors will compensate. Then make the reading and return to the angle count spot. i. basal areas of 10-20 m^2 / ha are common suggesting BAFs of 1 to 2. In both cases it is important to exclude bias in marking the sample point in the field. hard up against a rocky outcrop or inside a large clump of nettle. Be careful with trees which lean towards or away from the observer. align the angle gauge at right angles to the leaning axis of the stem.  If a 360 sweep is not possible ( the range 20-50 m^2 / ha suggesting BAF values of 2 to 5. make a 360 sweep as usual. the check distance is to the centre of the stump.  When one tree is obscured by another. keep distance from tree constant. Pacing the distance between successive sample points may be permissible provided one does not (consciously or unconsciously) veer away from the specified bearing or alter one's pace to prevent the sample point being. Use the same factor gauge at each point.e. Varying the BAF leads to problems in the statistical analysis of the data. one can apply what is called the "mirage" method (Schmid-Haas's method).

o where N denotes the estimated sample size. o C denotes the coefficient of variation of the pilot sample in percent.2.g. there is a tendency to underestimate basal area.prevent such overlap.0 8 2. A rough estimate of the number required can be obtained from a pilot sample using the formula: o N = (Ct/e)^2 . Disadvantages of Angle Count Sampling  The method estimates G from a sample so the estimate is subject to sampling error. o e denotes the error limits (desired standard error of estimate) specified in percent. The precision in a series of estimates will depend on: o size of sampling unit.10. This means that the distance between plot centres will have to be more than double the marginal distance of the largest trees likely to be encountered in the stand.0 .e. The number of points required will vary with the error limits specified and the size and variability of the forest stand.   A rough guide to the number of sampling points required in reasonably uniform stand conditions is given below:Area (ha) No. the number of sample points should be increased. i.5 .5. o t denotes Student's-t read from a table for the appropriate number of degress of freedom attached to the pilot sample and probability level (at the 95% level of confidence. 0.0 16 Where the crop is more variable. . this value is usually set at 2). when using instruments with small BAFs. of Sampling Points 0.  Accurate use of angle count instruments requires much practice. BAF of angle gauge o variation of G in the area under study o experience of operator.0 12 over 10. e. In particular.

probability is no longer proportional to size but to frequency of occurrence. For. For. Bounded plots are more appropriate in this case. Both samples. J.Z. o Usually. and this is then used to judge the accuracy of the angle count estimate. a wedge prism and calipers. it is cheaper. 72: 1-6 (1970)) estimated G in 77 sample plots using the Spiegel Relaskop.  The Spiegel Relaskop underestimated G by 4% compared to the calipers . to lay out temporary plots and count. Afr.  Angle count sampling reduced the cost of field work by 50%. For. This assertion is quite wrong since a theoretically unbiased estimate of mean basal area should sample in proportion to stem basal area. 7: 282-93. 1966) also attest to the superiority of angle counting in accuracy and precision for estimating . foresters almost invariably assume that the bounded plot gives the correct value. provide only estimates of the true population mean. Whyte and Tennent (N. Sci. Of 82 angle count plots established in native hardwood stands (dry to wet sclerophyll) in the Cotter catchment in 1973. 1975) point out that whenever angle count and bounded plot estimates of mean basal area per unit of area are compared. o Remember that in sampling for stocking as opposed to basal area. G s ranged from 5 to 50 m^2ha^-1. 1961) and Kulow (J. 64: 469-74.  It is sometimes difficult to obtain a clear unimpeded view in unpruned stands or in stands with heavy undergrowth. Each is subject to sampling error. vision was impeded in only about 10% of the plots. J. Some Experiences with Angle Count Sampling Van Laar (S. and more reliable. of trees ha-1 in class= G (of class)/g(equivalent. 20 (1): 134-47. This information can be derived by having the assistant measure the DBH of each tree counted in the sweep. not stem frequency. to mid-class d ). The stocking density (number of trees) per hectare or per size class is not given directly. He found:  Differences in the G estimates by wedge and caliper were insignificant. Then: o G ha^-1 of each d class = No.  The tendency with the angle count instruments was to count too many border line trees (checking the borderlines would eliminate this error!). of trees in class x BAF o and No. Using a higher BAF (Spiegel Relaskop) and moving on the radius overcame most of the sighting problems. however. Publications by Palley and O'Reagan (For. Bounded plot sampling does not achieve this whereas angle count sampling insignificant difference.

all authors agree that bounded plots are more efficient for determining stocking density (number of stems per unit area).mean stand basal area. However. .