USDA Forest Service Resource Information Group

Overview of the DATIM System

Inventory and monitoring of natural resources is an involved and expensive process. The National Inventory and Monitoring Applications Center (NIMAC), part of Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program within the U.S. Forest Service, is focused on this issue. NIMAC has identified 15 inventory and monitoring steps from the initial identification of the user’s information needs through the analysis and decision process. While the data collection process is familiar to many, most of the steps are not. Initial steps to identify measurable objectives and questions that can be answered are often overlooked or given little attention. Existing inventories are often used to answer questions after the fact without consideration for changes or managing costs in inventories. While analysis and reporting steps will be repeated after each remeasurement, the planning (design) steps are done once, thus land managers have little or no experience at initiating an inventory and monitoring system. Based upon experience gained with FIA, NIMAC provides technical assistance to others so that they can develop inventory and monitoring systems that are compatible with FIA data which are collected on all lands across the United States.

An inventory and monitoring toolkit is being built to help with most of the 15 steps. The toolkit has four main tools. The Design Tool for Inventory and Monitoring (DTIM) is used to identify monitoring needs, to evaluate existing data, and, if necessary, to specify the sampling design to balance cost and precision in order to address the monitoring questions. The Portable Data Recorder (PDR) Tool is software on PDRs and personal computers to collect, validate, and transfer field data. The Compilation Tool is used to store the data and to compute calculated fields, such as tree volumes, biomass, and species richness. NIMAC and FIA are developing several spatial and tabular Analytical Tools for Inventory and Monitoring (ATIM) to estimate tables and produce maps. The tabular tools produce estimates with associated sampling errors based on the data. The spatial tool selects subsets of the data for estimation based on spatial layers, such as ownership, cover-type maps, and ecological classification maps. The vision for the completed set of tools, the relationships between the tools and their roles are shown in below.

Roles of Analysis and Design Tools in Inventory and Monitoring flowchart.
Roles of analysis and design tools for inventory and monitoring.

The Design Tool will play a major role in linking the tools. DTIM will provide the analytical tool, ATIM, with a list of tables to estimate. If existing data are insufficient, it also will provide metadata to the protocol sample design on data collection methods, the attributes to measure and variables to compute. DTIM computes the sample size and can create a list of plots which is then input to the data recorder software. DTIM also could be used to create portions of forest plan monitoring guides for national forests.

Design Tool for Inventory and Monitoring (DTIM)

The Design Tool for Inventory and Monitoring is being developed to assist with the first 9 of the 15 monitoring steps. Using a knowledge base from monitoring experts, users will be presented with lists of choices to guide the development of the monitoring system that best suits their needs. Below is a quick overview of the nine steps that precede data collection, processing, analysis, and decisionmaking.

  1. Identify customers and set broad objectives.
  2. Select monitoring questions.
  3. Select attributes.
  4. Assess existing data.
  5. Set time/cost and precision constraints.
  6. Select sampling and plot designs
  7. Select plots.
  8. Plan field work
  9. Train field crews.

The current version of the tool assists with steps 1-3, 5, and part of 6.

Early versions of DTIM were applied on the Mark Twain, Cherokee, Mississippi, Superior, Texas and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests, as well as to state forests in Wisconsin and Indiana. The Mark Twain collected the first season of data based on the intensified design in 2008. The other forests are in various stages of planning based on DTIM results. A team of National Forest System (NFS) representatives is identifying the requirements for developing the Design Tool to help establish monitoring plans on National Forests as well as for use by other Forest Inventory and Analysis partners, including other countries.

Iterative use of DTIM has assisted in developing desired condition and objectives statements that are both meaningful and measurable. The long term goal is for DTIM to assist with all 9 steps (with the help of ATIM). We also will include more questions and attributes with hope of extending beyond vegetation sampling to other resources that can be sampled with plots. We plan to expand DTIM’s ability to evaluate sampling design alternatives and to optimize plot designs for customers who need to do so. DTIM will include a module to generate a spatially balanced list of plot locations. While designed to meet the needs of NFS, many of the new features also will be applicable to other NIMAC customers. NIMAC’s goal is to make more efficient and comparable estimates across the landscape resulting in the sustainable use of our forest resources.

Analytical Tool for Inventory and Monitoring (ATIM)

The intent of ATIM is to provide the NFS with a consistent application that can read, compile, query, and analyze statistically-based vegetative inventory data such as FIA and other sample-based inventories. ATIM would enable the NFS to analyze inventory data to derive estimates of current condition and trends for attributes associated with vegetation to meet their information needs on Forests and surrounding landscapes. ATIM will also link to spatial data that can be used in the compiling and analysis of the data as well as produce map products directly or via ArcGIS. It will be able to integrate with FACTS (Forest Service Activities Tracking System) to identify changes that occurred since the time of inventory. ATIM will also be able to provide information needed by DTIM to help determine appropriate sample sizes. ATIM will not be dependent on any other application and it will run within the Forest Service computing environment. The scope does not include the gathering or loading of data.

The application will need to handle the data from both FSVeg (Field Sampled Vegetation) and FIADB databases. Since not all attributes/requirements currently exist in either FSVeg or FIADB, discussions will be held to accommodate the necessary changes. Work is expected to progress iteratively to ensure that ATIM is being built as designed, to be adaptive to both changing needs and technology, and to minimize investment risk. Based on user feedback from early releases of ATIM and continued user engagement, additional specifications may be defined as appropriate and as requested. A later phase may include the ability to link to other Regional and corporate datasets such as those in the Natural Resource Manager (NRM) where co-located inventory data may be found.

USDA Forest Service
Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC)
1400 Independence Ave.
Mailstop: 1104
Washington, DC 20250-1104

(202) 205-0895 logo

Last modified: Wednesday, 12-Oct-2016 09:46:16 CDT