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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Distance and T-square sampling for spatial measures of tree diversity

Pommerening, Arne; Sterba, Hubert; Eskelson, Bianca N. I.


Distance sampling and its statistically improved variant, T-square sampling, are important sampling methods in plant ecology. They have often been applied in the context of plant density estimations and are comparatively easy to implement, since they intuitively follow the nearest-neighbour principle and thus do not require the layout of sample plots. Previous research studying distance sampling suggested that T-square sampling may also lead to an improved estimation of spatial tree diversity indices. We simulated distance and T-square sampling in six large fully mapped forest areas for seven tree diversity indices of which some competed for the same diversity aspect, i.e. tree location (dispersion), tree species and tree size diversity. Our results demonstrated that both distance and T-square sampling are indeed robust methods for sampling spatial measures of tree diversity. The sample size required for a sampling error of 10% does not exceed 20% of the total number of trees in a sampling area. Tsquare sampling has the ability to adapt to different spatial patterns of tree locations and this ability is key to the way the method controls estimation bias. The sample size required for species mingling and size differentiation clearly depends on the underlying spatial tree pattern in the sampling area. With most diversity indices, sample size reductions between 0.06% and 40% could be achieved by the application of T-square sampling compared to traditional distance sampling. All other conditions being equal, we could identify the uniform angle index, the species mingling index and the size differentiation index as those diversity indices achieving lower sampling error values than their competitors. For tree density estimations the Diggle and Byth estimators performed best. Based on our results, T-square sampling can be considered a robust sampling method for spatial tree diversity indices that is easy to apply in the field.


Biodiversity; Nearest -neighbour summary characteristics; Forest inventory; Tree density; Sampling simulation; Point process statistics

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2024, Volume: 163, article number: 111995
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science
    Probability Theory and Statistics

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