Assessing forest canopies and understorey illumination: canopy closure, canopy cover and other measures

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The forest canopy is one of the chief determinants of the microhabitat within the forest. It affects plant growth and survival, hence determining the nature of the vegetation, and wildlife habitat. A plethora of different techiques have been devised to measure the canopy. Evaluation of the literature reveals confusion over what is actually being measured. This paper distinguishes two basic types of measurement: canopy cover is the area of the ground covered by a vertical projection of the canopy, while canopy closure is the proportion of the sky hemisphere obscured by vegetation when viewed from a single point. The principal techniques used to measure canopy cover, canopy closure, and a number of related measures are described and discussed. The advantages and limitations are outlined and some sampling guidelines are provided. The authors hope to clarify the nature of the measurements and to provide foresters with sufficient information to select techniques suitable for their needs.

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