FIA Support for Forest Inventories in Central and South America

FIA research biologist Humfredo Marcano-Vega (3rd from left) and FIA biological scientist Luis O. Ortiz-Lopez (2nd from left) providing training to Honduran forest staff on establishing inventory plots within the pine forests of Honduras. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) continue to provide support for forest inventory activities in other countries. On March 26 and 27, the SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) office in Knoxville, Tennessee hosted Dr. Dionicio Alvarado Rosales, Professor of Forest Pathology, Colegio de Postgraduados, Campus Montecillo, Mexico, who met with FIA researchers to discuss analysis of crown and damage data from the forest health monitoring plots that are part of Mexico’s national forest inventory.

From April 28 to May 2, the Knoxville FIA office will host 10 to 15 visitors from natural resource management agencies in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama on a study tour sponsored by Forest Service International Programs. All members of the group either work on or are planning for national forest inventories in their home countries. Presentations by FIA Knoxville personnel from all sections will address the tour objectives to:

a) Understand how U.S. national forest inventory objectives are based on resource management information needs, and how these information needs guide inventory design, data collection, information processing, and results dissemination.

b) See how data flows through forest inventory systems and multiple feedback loops that provide data quality assurances and control.

c) Learn about the legislative foundations, funding mechanisms, and administrative organization of the U.S. national forest inventory.

d) Discuss how the information gathered is disseminated to stakeholders and how value is added through various products and outlets.

As a follow-up to the study tour in Knoxville, FIA supervisory research forester Tom Brandeis and Humfredo Marcano-Vega, FIA research biologist stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will travel to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to teach a forest inventory data analysis short course to personnel from the Escuela National de Ciencias Forestales (National Forest Sciences School) from May 6 -16, again sponsored by Forest Service International Programs. Course material will cover data review, tree volume and biomass estimation, forest carbon measurement, and results presentation. The course will be initially prepared in English and then translated into Spanish for use in multiple countries where FIA and SilvaCarbon provide technical assistance to national forest inventories.

The Honduran government conducted a national forest inventory in 2005 and recently completed an intensified forest inventory in their national parks. Previous technical assistance to their field staff on establishing forest monitoring plots have been provided by Marcano-Vega, Luis Ortiz López (FIA biological scientist), and Iván Vicéns Jiménez (forestry technician, International Institute of Tropical Forestry) within the broadleaf forests of the Biosphere Reserve of Río Plátano and the pine forests of Honduras. Capacity building on forest inventory data quality assurance and control has also been provided by the FIA staff to Peru’s forestry authority and field personnel as part of the U.S. government effort to provide technical assistance in the tropics to reduce deforestation and degradation.

All of these experiences provide opportunities for continuous international cooperation and further requests of assistance from the U.S. Forest Service in analyzing and presenting the results from forest inventory and monitoring data.

For more information, email Tom Brandeis at

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