Sampling Methods

    FIREMON contains the following sampling procedures for monitoring ecosystem characteristics: plot description, tree data, fuel load, species composition, cover/frequency, point intercept, density, line intercept, and rare species. Below are sampling forms/data sheets, monitoring protocols/methods, and field equipment checklists for monitoring these characteristics. Additionally, there are forms to record metadata information and fire behavior, as well as a general FIREMON 'How to Guide', appendices, and glossary.

    Plot Description

    A generalized sampling scheme which describes site characteristics using biophysically based measurements that are meaningful to fire management. Examples include percent cover of burned ground; stand height; cover of downed woody; and topography (elevation, aspect, and slope). The Plot Description (PD) form is used to describe general characteristics of the FIREMON macroplot to provide ecological context for data analyses. The PD data characterize the topographical setting, geographic reference point, general plant composition and cover, ground cover, fuels, and soils information. This method provides the general ecological data that can be used to stratify or aggregate fire monitoring results. The PD method also has comment fields that allow for documentation of plot conditions and location using photos and notes.

    Plot Description Sampling Methods (PDF; Updated 7/2007)
    Plot Description Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Plot Description Field Descriptions (PDF; Updated 7/2007)
    Plot Description Sampling Form (PDF; Updated 7/2007)
    Plot Description Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Tree Data

    These methods are used for sampling individual trees in a fixed-area plot to estimate tree density, size, and age class distributions before and after fire so that tree survival and mortality rates can be assessed. The Tree Data (TD) methods are used to sample individual trees in a fixed-area plot to estimate tree density, size, and age class distributions before and after fire so that tree survival and mortality rates can be assessed. This method can be used to sample individual shrubs if they are over 2 meters tall. This method allows the measurement of diameter, height, age, growth rate, crown length, pathogen evidence, fire severity, and snag description for each tree above a user-specified diameter. All other trees are tallied by species and diameter classes. Fire severity measures included in this method are tree mortality estimates summarized from the raw TD data and bole char height and percent crown scorched summarized from individual tree measurements.

    Tree Data Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Tree Data Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Tree Data Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Tree Data Sampling Form (PDF)
    Tree Data Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Fuel Load

    A line transect technique which estimates loadings of downed dead woody in a variety of size classes (Brown 1979). Litter and duff depths will be estimated along the transect using methods outlined in Keane (1999). The Fuel Load methods (FL) are used to sample dead and down woody debris, depth of the duff/litter profile and estimate the proportion of litter in the profile. Down woody debris is sampled using the line transect method (Brown 1974). Pieces are tallied in the standard fire size classes: 1-hour (0-0.635 cm), 10-hour (0.635-2.54 cm), 100-hour (2.54-7.62 cm). Pieces greater than 7.62cm are recorded by diameter and decay class. Duff and litter depth are measured at two points along each of 25-meter line transect segments. Litter depth is estimated as a proportion of total duff and litter depth.

    Fuel Load Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Fuel Load Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Fuel Load Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Fuel Load Sampling Form (PDF)
    Fuel Load Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Species Composition

    The FIREMON Species Composition (SC) method is used to provide ocular estimates of canopy cover and height measurements for plant species on a macroplot. The SC method provides plant species composition and canopy coverage estimates to describe a stand or plant community. Optional fields are also provided for user specific measurements or codes. The SC sampling method is suited for a wide variety of vegetation types and is especially useful in plant communities with tall shrubs or trees. These methods are relatively fast and efficient to conduct in the field and facilitate sampling many sites over large areas. The SC method is used mostly for inventory over large areas using few examiners. This method is useful for describing a stand or plant community and documenting important changes over time. However, this method does not quantify the variability within a stand and cannot be used to detect statistically significant changes over time.

    Species Composition Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Species Composition Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Species Composition Field Description (PDF)
    Species Composition Sampling Form (PDF)
    Species Composition Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Cover Density

    The FIREMON Cover / Frequency (CF) method is used to assess changes in plant species cover and frequency for a macroplot. This method uses quadrats to sample within stand variation and quantify statistically valid changes in plant species cover, height, and frequency over time. Since it is difficult to estimate cover in quadrats for larger plants, this method is primarily suited for grasses, forbs, and shrubs less than 3 feet (1 m) in height. Quadrats are placed systematically along randomly located transects. Canopy cover is assessed by visually estimating the percent of a quadrat occupied by the vertical projection of vegetation onto the ground. Plant species frequency is recorded as the number of times a species occurs within a given number of quadrats. Frequency is typically recorded for plant species which are rooted within the quadrat.

    Cover Frequency Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Cover Frequency Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Cover Frequency Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Cover Frequency Sampling Form (PDF)
    Cover Frequency Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Point Cover

    The Point Intercept (PO) method is used to assess changes in plant species cover or ground cover for a macroplot. This method uses a narrow diameter pole placed at systematic intervals along line transects to sample within stand variation and quantify statistically valid changes in plant species cover and height over time. This method is primarily suited for vegetation types less than 3 feet (1 m) in height and is particularly useful for recording ground cover. Point estimates of cover are collected at fixed locations along a transect where a narrow diameter pole is lowered at systematic intervals along a transect. Plant species or ground cover classes which touch the pole are recorded as a 'hit' along a transect. Canopy cover is calculated by dividing the number of 'hits' for each plant species or ground cover class by the total number of points along a transect.

    Point Intercept Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Point Intercept Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Point Intercept Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Point Intercept Sampling Form (PDF)
    Point Intercept Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Line Intercept

    The Line Intercept (LI) method is used to is used to assess changes in plant species cover for a macroplot. This method uses line transects to sample within stand variation and quantify statistically valid changes in plant species cover and height over time. This method is suited for most forest and rangeland communities, but is especially useful for quantification of shrub cover greater than 3 feet (1m) tall, given that ocular estimation of cover for such species is difficult. The LI method can also be used in conjunction with cover-frequency transects when vegetation over 3 feet (1 m) exists. Line intercept is also used to calibrate ocular estimates of shrub cover when the Species Composition (SC) method is used. Canopy cover is recorded as the number of centimeters intercepted along a transect. Percent canopy cover is calculated by dividing the number of centimeters intercepted by each item by the total length of the transect.

    Line Intercept Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Line Intercept Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Line Intercept Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Line Intercept Sampling Form (PDF)
    Line Intercept Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Density

    The FIREMON Density (DE) method is used to assess changes in plant species density and height for a macroplot. This method uses quadrats and belt transects, transects having a width, to sample within stand variation and quantify statistically valid changes in plant species density and height over time. Herbaceous plant species are sampled with quadrats while shrubs and trees are sampled with belt transects. Quadrats for sampling herbaceous plants are placed systematically along randomly located transects. Belt transects for sampling shrub and tree density use the same randomly located transects. The number of individuals for each plant species in a quadrat or belt transect are calculated. Density is calculated as the number of individuals per unit area using the area of the sampling unit, quadrat or belt transect. This method is primarily suited for grasses, forbs, shrubs, and small trees in which individual plants or stems can be distinguished. However, we recommend using the FIREMON TD sampling methods or estimating tree density.

    Density Sampling Methods (PDF) 
    Density Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Density Field Descriptions (PDF)
    Density Sampling Form (PDF)
    Density Sampling Cheatsheet (PDF)

    Vegetation Data - Rare Species

    The FIREMON Rare Species (RS) method is used to assess changes in uncommon, perennial plant species when other monitoring methods are not effective. This method monitors individual plants and statistically quantifies changes in plant survivorship, growth, and reproduction over time. Plants are spatially located using distance along and from a permanent baseline and individual plants are marked using a permanent tag. Data are collected for status (living or dead), stage (seedling, non-reproductive, or reproductive), size (height and diameter), and reproductive effort (number of flowers and fruits). This method is primarily used for Threatened and Endangered species and uncommon grass, forb, shrub, and tree species of special interest.

    Rare Species Sampling Methods (PDF)
    Rare Species Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Rare Species Sampling Form (PDF)
    Rare Species Field Descriptions (PDF)

    Fire Behavior

    The Fire Behavior (FB) methods are used to describe the behavior of the fire and the ambient weather conditions that influence the fire behavior. Fire behavior methods are not plot based and are collected by fire event and time-date. In general, the fire behavior data are used to interpret the fire effects documented in the plot-level sampling. Unlike the other plot-level sampling methods, the Fire Behavior methods are documented observations taken for one fire event, not for the FIREMON macroplots. The FireID field in the PD method links this database to the plot level data. The Flame Length, Spread Rate and Fire Behavior Picture fields in the PD method allow you to enter plot specific fire behavior data.

    Fire Behavior Sampling Methods (PDF; Updated 7/2007)
    Fire Behavior Sampling Equipment (PDF)
    Fire Behavior Sampling Form (PDF; Updated 7/2007)

    Metadata

    The Metadata (MD) table in the FIREMON database is used to record any information about the sampling strategy or data collected using the FIREMON sampling procedures. The MD method records metadata pertaining to a group of FIREMON plots, such as all plots in a specific FIREMON project. FIREMON plots are linked to metadata using a unique metadata identifier which is entered in the MD table and in the PD data for each FIREMON plot. Metadata pertaining to a single plot is recorded in the comments field on the FIREMON PD data form.

    Metadata Method (PDF)
    Metadata Form (PDF)

    General Documents

    Documents and tools which apply to all or many of the FIREMON sampling methods.

    FIREMON Glossary of Terms (PDF; Draft 8/25/2004)
    FIREMON "How To" Guide (PDF; Draft 8/25/2004)
    FIREMON Appendix (PDF; Draft 7/2/2003)