iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Do different indices of forest structural heterogeneity yield consistent results?

Karl Friedrich Reich (1)   , Matthias Kunz (1), Andreas W Bitter (2), Goddert Von Oheimb (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 15, Issue 5, Pages 424-432 (2022)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor4096-015
Published: Oct 20, 2022 - Copyright © 2022 SISEF

Research Articles

Forest management with a focus on high structural heterogeneity is a major goal in modern forestry to increase multifunctionality. The assessment and quantification of forest structures has, therefore, gained much attention in recent years. However, there is no standardized approach to surveying forest heterogeneity; instead, a variety of structural indices, which have been developed over past decades, are used. This makes it difficult to interpret the results of different studies and to base management decisions on such data. In this study, we compared six structural indices that differ in terms of their complexity and the method of data acquisition. These included the Gini coefficient of the diameter at breast height and of tree height, the Shannon index of tree species diversity, two complex indices of structural heterogeneity, one based on conventional inventory data and one on terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) data, and a simple-holistic TLS-based stand structural complexity index. For the comparison of these six indices, we used data from 84 plots in 12 different forest stand types in two study areas in Germany. The stand types consisted of different dominant tree species and included different age classes. The degree of correlations among the different indices was highly variable. In addition, we did not find a clear age-dependency of the indices. We conclude that the choice of a specific index plays an important role in the evaluation and interpretation of forest structural heterogeneity. Because TLS data offer multiple benefits in terms of precision, reproducibility and comprehensiveness, we recommend to use TLS-based indices of structural heterogeneity.


Forest Structure, Shannon Index, Gini Coefficient, Stand Structural Complexity Index, Structural Heterogeneity Index

Authors’ address

Karl Friedrich Reich 0000-0003-2432-9882
Matthias Kunz 0000-0002-0541-3424
Goddert Von Oheimb 0000-0001-7408-425X
Institute of General Ecology and Environmental Protection, Technische Universität Dresden, Pienner Straße 7, 01737 Tharandt (Germany)
Andreas W Bitter
Institute of Forest Economics and Forest Management Planning, Technische Universität Dresden, Pienner Strasse 23, 01737 Tharandt (Germany)

Corresponding author

Karl Friedrich Reich


Reich KF, Kunz M, Bitter AW, Von Oheimb G (2022). Do different indices of forest structural heterogeneity yield consistent results?. iForest 15: 424-432. - doi: 10.3832/ifor4096-015

Academic Editor

Claudia Cocozza

Paper history

Received: Mar 07, 2022
Accepted: Aug 09, 2022

First online: Oct 20, 2022
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2022
Publication Time: 2.40 months

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