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Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177

Estimating forest crown area removed by selection cutting:

a linked regression-GIS approach based on stump diameters
S.C. Andersona,*,1, J.A. Kupfera,2, R.R. Wilsonb, R.J. Cooperc
Department of Geography and Planning, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 2524 South Frontage Rd., Vicksburg, MS 39180, USA
Daniel B. Warnell School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Received 7 July 1999; accepted 13 November 1999


The purpose of this research was to develop a model that could be used to provide a spatial representation of uneven-aged
silvicultural treatments on forest crown area. We began by developing species-speci®c linear regression equations relating tree
DBH to crown area for eight bottomland tree species at White River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas, USA. The
relationships were highly signi®cant for all species, with coef®cients of determination (r2) ranging from 0.37 for Ulmus
crassifolia to nearly 0.80 for Quercus nuttallii and Taxodium distichum. We next located and measured the diameters of more
than 4000 stumps from a single tree±group selection timber harvest. Stump locations were recorded with respect to an
established grid point system and entered into a Geographic Information System (ARC/INFO). The area occupied by the
crown of each logged individual was then estimated by using the stump dimensions (adjusted to DBHs) and the regression
equations relating tree DBH to crown area. Our model projected that the selection cuts removed roughly 300 m2 of basal area
from the logged sites resulting in the loss of 55 000 m2 of crown area. The model developed in this research represents a tool
that can be used in conjunction with remote sensing applications to assist in forest inventory and management, as well as to
estimate the impacts of selective timber harvest on wildlife. # 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Bottomland hardwood forest; Crown area; GIS regression model; Silvicultural treatments; Stump diameters

1. Introduction forest management technique in southeastern bottom-

land hardwood forests (Meadows and Stanturf, 1997).
Uneven-aged silviculture, which involves the har- Compared to clear cuts or patch cuts, properly-exe-
vesting of trees singly or in small groups (i.e. selection cuted selection cuts can minimize the amount of
cutting), has become a widely-accepted and practiced subsequent erosion, reduce the risk of blowdown
and retain more of an uneven-aged forest structure.
Group selection cuts, especially when coupled with
Corresponding author. Tel.: ‡1-601-634-2942. preparatory treatments, thinnings and repeated cut-
E-mail address: (S.C. Anderson).
tings (the shelterwood method), can also be used to
Present address: Engineering Research and Development create favorable conditions for the regeneration of
Centre, CEERC-ER-W, 3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS
39180, USA.
shade intolerant species (e.g. Chapman, 1950;
Present address: Department of Geography & Regional Della-Bianca and Beck, 1985; Johnson, 1992; Schle-
Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. singer et al., 1993).

0378-1127/00/$ ± see front matter # 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 3 7 8 - 1 1 2 7 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 3 2 5 - 4
172 S.C. Anderson et al. / Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177

A common goal of selection cuts in fully stocked these cuts was to reduce canopy closure and thereby
stands is to reduce stand basal area or density to a enhance light levels at the forest ¯oor; among other
target ®gure (e.g. 60% of full stocking). In addition to things, this was done to aid in the regeneration of
the economic value of the timber harvested, stand grasses and herbaceous species for grazing animals, to
reductions can be used to redirect resources such as increase structural heterogeneity for wildlife, to
light to the remaining individuals and to improve stand enhance wood production, and to promote establish-
quality (Hicks, 1998). Basal area is often used as a ment of advanced regeneration of Quercus species
more easily measurable surrogate for crown area or (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1980). Data for this
canopy cover (Mitchell and Popovich, 1997), and the study come from 15 ha plots that were established in
removal of a given amount of basal area is thus a the core of the treated plots. Within each core plot, a
simple approach to increasing light levels in the forest 50 m  50 m grid system was laid out, with intersec-
understory (see e.g. Stoeckler and Macon, 1956). tion points ¯agged and labeled. Stump locations were
There may be times, however, when a more direct then mapped by referencing the distance and direction
spatial approximation of changes in forest crown area to the nearest grid point.
is desired Ð for example, to predict the loss of habitat
for canopy nesting or feeding birds, to help evaluate 2.2. DBH/crown area relationships
harvest policies or to model the loss of foliar biomass
resulting from a group selection cut. The objective of The relationship between crown width/area and
this research is twofold: (1) to develop regression either DBH or stump diameter has been examined
models relating diameter at breast height (DBH) to for a number of species (see e.g. Minor, 1951; Min-
crown area for eight common canopy species in south- ckler and Gingrich, 1970; Farr et al., 1989; Cade,
ern palustrine wetlands; and (2) to provide an example 1997), including common southern bottomland hard-
of how these equations can be linked to a geographic woods (Francis, 1986; Goelz, 1996). While previous
information system to project the effects of selection research has documented that height growth of trees is
timber harvest on forest canopy area. more related to site quality than stocking density,
diameter growth is clearly related to stand density,
canopy closure and species characteristics (Hicks,
2. Methods 1998). Francis (1986), for example, documented dif-
ferences in DBH/crown width relationships among the
2.1. Study area species examined in this study. We therefore used data
collected on WRNWR to develop our own regression
The study was conducted on the White River equations relating DBH to crown area for the eight
National Wildlife Refuge (WRNWR), a 60 000 ha canopy dominant/codominant species: water hickory
refuge in eastern Arkansas, USA. Rainfall is moderate (Carya aquatica (Michx. f.), sugarberry (Celtis lae-
throughout the year, and ¯ood waters inundate exten- vigata Willd.), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica
sive areas of WRNWR in most years. The refuge Marsh.), overcup oak (Quercus lyrata Walt.), Nuttall
is more than 90% forested and is comprised primarily oak (Quercus nuttallii Palmer), locust species (Gle-
of palustrine forested wetlands (U.S. Fish and Wildlife ditsia triachanthos L. and G. aquatica Marsh.), bald
Service, 1980). Major forest types include Quercus cypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. var. disti-
lyrata±Carya aquatica (SAF type 96), Celtis laevi- chum), and cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia Nutt.).
gata±Ulmus americana±Fraxinus pennsylvanica To develop these equations, we measured DBH and
(SAF type 93), Liquidambar styraci¯ua±Quercus crown area of randomly selected individuals of each
phellos (SAF type 92) and Taxodium distichum species from uncut areas in the management compart-
(SAF type 101) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ment. Because DBH/crown area relationships can be
1980). sensitive to crown competition factor, we sampled
In 1995, selection cuts were performed on two only individuals >10 cm DBH and recorded the
50 ha areas (termed plots B and C) within a single canopy position of all sampled trees (dominant, codo-
management compartment. The primary purpose of minant, intermediate, overtopped). Nearly all of the
S.C. Anderson et al. / Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177 173

sampled trees were canopy dominants or codomi- equivalent DBH measurements using a conversion
nants. Crown area was estimated by: (1) subjectively rate developed for southern bottomland species
choosing the longest axis of the crown and the longest (Bylin, 1982):
axis perpendicular to the ®rst axis; (2) measuring the
lengths of both axes using a Sonin Combo Pro range- DBH …cm† ˆ 0:595 ‡ 0:757 stump diameter …cm†
®nder, with the transmitter and target located directly …r2 ˆ 0:90†
under the opposing margins of the crown along the
chosen diameters; and (3) using the formula for the The resulting diameters were used to estimate basal
area of an ellipse with the two axis values. Because the area at breast height using the equation for the area of
ellipse de®ned in this way can include area not an ellipse; basal area was then reconverted to DBH
actually occupied by the crown (e.g. if the crown is under the assumption of a circular trunk cross-section.
not circular or has indentations), this value can slightly This `final' DBH was used to estimate the crown area
overestimate crown area (Goelz, 1996). The relation- for each stump using the species-specific equations
ship between tree diameter and crown area was then relating DBH to crown size, and a circle with the
computed using simple linear regression. corresponding crown area was created around each
stump using ARC/INFO's BUFFER command.
2.3. Mapping the effects of selection cuts on canopy Because basal area±crown area relationships may be
crown area sensitive to crown class, we mapped only individuals
that were deemed to have been dominant or co-domi-
Stumps from the 1995 cuttings were located during nant in the canopy. This determination was based on
the summer of 1996. For each stump, we determined whether the individual had reached a minimum DBH
the species of the individual and calculated the dis- (Table 1), with the species-specific minimum limit
tance (meters) and direction (azimuth) of the stump to being determined by our field observations of indivi-
the nearest grid point. Stump area was estimated by dual canopy dominant and co-dominant trees.
measuring the diameters of the longest stump axis and
the longest perpendicular axis after visually `remov-
ing' root spurs, which would lead to an overestimation 3. Results
of the stump area. Stump locations were entered into
ARC/INFO (vers. 7.1.1) by plotting their position with 3.1. DBH/crown area relationships
respect to the grid points.
The area occupied by the crown of each logged Summary data for the trees used to develop the
individual was estimated based on the measured stump relationships between DBH and crown area as well as
dimensions. Both stump diameters were converted to the minimum estimated DBH for individuals to be

Table 1
Means and ranges of diameter (DBH) and average crown area used to develop DBH±crown area relationships for eight bottomland tree species
on the White River National Wildlife Refuge

Species # Trees DBH (cm) Crown area (m2) Estimated DBH to canopya

Mean Range Mean Range

Water hickory 66 39.1 10.5±81.5 49.7 4±209 20.5

Sugarberry 74 28.1 10.0±72.0 28.9 4±129 20.0
Green ash 68 34.5 10.0±82.0 28.0 2±130 15.0
Overcup Oak 73 38.4 10.5±93.5 51.0 6±193 20.0
Nuttall Oak 70 32.8 10.5±134.5 48.5 5±285 22.0
Honey Locust 58 23.6 11.0±56.6 21.5 4±73 19.0
Baldcypress 39 50.4 13.0±125.0 38.0 5±168 25.0
Cedar Elm 34 49.4 10.5±77.5 52.7 11±196 23.0
Minimum estimated DBH for individuals to be classified as at least canopy co-dominant based on observations at the time of sampling.
174 S.C. Anderson et al. / Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177

relationship, we included these individuals in the

diagrams and equations given in Fig. 1. It is also
important to note that the y-intercept for all the species
was less than zero. This suggests that the equations are
not suitable for predicting crown areas of trees with a
DBH outside the range of sampled trees (subdominant
individuals <10 cm DBH).

3.2. Logging effects

Based on our analysis of stumps, over 4000 indi-

vidual trees (including subcanopy individuals) com-
prising roughly 300 m2 of basal area were removed
from the two 15 ha core areas. Green ash, overcup oak,
water hickory, Nuttall oak and sugarberry accounted
for nearly 90% of the total basal area removed. Our
projections of crown area removal based on stump
sizes and locations suggested that the selection cuts
removed 21 750 and 33 150 m2 of crown area from
plots B and C, respectively (Fig. 2). The area of
individual- and aggregated- (where several adjacent
crowns were removed) crowns ranged from 7 to
909 m2, with a mean removal of 63 m2.

4. Discussion

4.1. Limitations and uses

In this study, we have presented an example of how

statistical relationships between tree diameter and
crown area can be linked to a Geographic Information
Fig. 1. Scatter plots and linear regression equations (with System (GIS) to project the removal of crown area by
coefficients of determination) for the relationships between DBH selection timber cuts. The extension of this modeling
and crown area of eight bottomland species, White River National framework for estimating changes in canopy coverage
Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas.
resulting from silvicultural treatments will require a
more detailed model because canopy cover can be
in¯uenced by the presence of overlapping crowns in
classi®ed as at least canopy co-dominant are shown in mature forest stands and because of the non-linear
Table 1. For all eight species, the relationship between nature of basal area±canopy cover relationships.
DBH and crown area was highly signi®cant Mitchell and Popovich (1997), for example, found a
(p < 0.001), with adjusted coef®cients of determina- straight-line relationship between basal area of pon-
tion (r2) ranging from 0.37 for cedar elm to 0.78±0.79 derosa pine and canopy cover in forest with <60%
for baldcypress and Nuttall oak (Fig. 1). In some cases, cover; however, the relationship broke down in denser
one or two outliers were evident (e.g. green ash, cedar cover, presumably due to the effects of crowding and
elm); although removal of these `wolf trees' Ð indi- competition. Thus, while we documented signi®cant
viduals with an exceptionally large ratio of crown area relations between basal area and crown area, the
to diameter Ð often improved the strength of the extension of our ®ndings to canopy coverage would
S.C. Anderson et al. / Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177 175

Fig. 2. Projected crown area removed by selection cutting, (Plot B ˆ 61 m2, Plot C ˆ 65 m2) on the White River National Wildlife Refuge,
Arkansas, USA.

only be valid in areas of 100%, but non-overlapping, linkage between crown area and basal area. This
canopy cover. linkage may prove to be complicated because of
One way to improve our methodology would be to density-dependent effects on canopy shape and archi-
model canopy structure and architecture more realis- tecture (e.g. natural pruning).
tically. For example, Song et al. (1997) developed a While validation is needed to determine error rates
model to describe the three-dimensional, hierarchical associated with our method, we believe there are
structure of individual crowns based on crown ratio, potential applications for extrapolating and modeling
maximum cardinal radius, vertical position and shape. crown area (independent of its relationship to canopy
By utilizing concepts from their model, it might be coverage) from DBH or stump size. For example, it
possible to more directly assess the effects of logging would be possible to estimate the amount of canopy
on canopy structure, cover and three-dimensional occupied by individuals or species on small (<1 ha)
geometry. Such a linked model would also be of plots simply by measuring and mapping the basal area
interest for other reasons, for example, to model of the trees, a relatively simple and quick procedure.
changes in light transmittance or rainfall interception Areas of crown overlap would become evident where
following a logging operation or to estimate reduc- the projected crown areas of nearby trees intersect. If
tions in bole quality and value due to the development only trees that are clearly part of the forest canopy are
of epicormic branches (Trimble and Seegrist, 1973; mapped and measured, this estimation could be useful
Miller, 1996). However, unless three-dimensional for ground truthing of re¯ectance rates in remote
canopy attributes can be adequately linked to an easily sensing applications. Further, as a result of advances
measurable variable such as basal area, the more in remote sensing technology and data resolution, it is
detailed modeling of canopy structure and architecture now possible to estimate individual tree locations,
could merely increase the complexity of the data crown areas and species on air photos and images
required while losing the simplicity inherent in the (e.g. Meyer et al., 1996; Dralle and Rudemo, 1997;
176 S.C. Anderson et al. / Forest Ecology and Management 137 (2000) 171±177

Gerylo et al., 1998). Stand basal area could then be Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans,
estimated with large-scale aerial photography by mea- LA.
Cade, B.S., 1997. Comparisons of tree basal area and canopy cover
suring crown areas and back-calculating using regres- in habitat models: subalpine forest. J. Wildl. Manage. 61, 326±
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The authors would like to thank Jeff Denman and Meyer, P., Staenz, K., Itten, K.I., 1996. Semi-automatic procedures
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from digitized colour infrared-aerial photography. ISPRS J.
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