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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

A new prediction-based variance estimator for two-stage model-assisted surveys of forest resources

Saarela, Svetlana; Andersen, Hans-Erik; Grafstrom, Anton; Schnell, Sebastian; Gobakken, Terje; Naesset, Erik; Nelson, Ross F.; McRoberts, Ronald E.; Gregoire, Timothy G.; Stahl, Goran


Forest resource assessments utilizing remotely sensed auxiliary data are becoming increasingly important due to their ability to provide precise estimates of forest parameters at low cost. In presenting results from such surveys, it is important to provide not only estimates of the target parameters, but also their confidence intervals, which provide the range of values wherein the true value is located with a certain level of confidence. If such an interval is narrow the point estimates from the survey can be considered very reliable. In estimating the confidence interval the variance of an estimator must first be estimated. Unbiasedness, i.e. that an estimator on average coincides with the true value, is an important property also for variance estimators. Another important property is that the variance estimator itself has low variance, not least in cases when the variance estimates obtained with the estimator may not be strictly positive. One such important case is when two-stage designs are used to first allocate sample clusters in the form of strips from which auxiliary data, such as metrics derived from airborne laser scanning, are obtained; field data are then derived from sample plots beneath each sample strip in a second stage. In this article we compare two variance estimators for such surveys. The first estimator is a standard estimator suggested in reference textbooks on model-assisted sampling. The second estimator is proposed by the authors, and utilizes the auxiliary data to a larger extent. Through Monte Carlo simulation we show that both variance estimators are approximately unbiased, but that the new estimator is more stable (i.e., has lower empirical variance) and provides empirical confidence interval coverage rates that coincide more closely with the nominal coverage rates. (C) 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Airborne laser scanning; Design-based inference; Monte Carlo simulation; Variance estimation

Published in

Remote Sensing of Environment
2017, Volume: 192, pages: 1-11