Measuring Fusions

General discussions of measurement techniques and the results of testing of techniques and equipment.

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To what extent do you agree: I want to adopt this equation for measuring the coast redwood.

Strongly Agree
0
No votes
Agree
5
63%
Neutral
1
13%
Disagree
2
25%
Strongly Disagree
0
No votes
I Don't Care
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 8

#1)  Measuring Fusions

Postby yofoghorn » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:09 pm

Hi everybody,

For years now, the tree community that measures and documents coast redwoods have come across a huge conundrum that really boils down to "what is an individual tree?" and "how does one document clonal organisms like the coast redwood?" For the coast redwood, usually trees create large clones and fusions that are irregular. After talking with John Montague, Michael Taylor, and Yinghai Lu, we all decided that there has to be a way to better document and make fusions "fair" and their parameters definable for comparison with the large single stems.

Michael Taylor first got started thinking about how many of the "single-stemmed" redwood champions are really not single-stems but rather gigantic fusions. This is not uncommon, and appears to be the rule in many situations. Some examples of "single stems" that are almost certainly ancient fusions include Del Norte Titan, Iluvatar, El Viejo del Norte, ARCO Giant, and the newest "biggest single stem redwood find" you all have been hearing about over the past few years. When one has a clonal species that grows like a weed, certainly they gobble up new trunks. Then there are many large, notable doubles including the most famous Screaming Titans. Then we have trees that are more obviously fusions with smaller accessory trunks, such as Lost Monarch and Melkor. So again, we all posed the question: how do we measure these trees.

That got John Montague and me thinking of how to add more trunks to a tree without simply destroying the competition. Screaming Titans would be a massive redwood if all of the volume was counted. But is it fair for single stems? Well, yes and no. A single-stemmed tree versus a fusion would likely have a smaller ground footprint making both nutrients collected from the ground and structural integrity a bit harder to manage once a trunk gets big. For the coast redwood, from a stability standpoint and from a nutrient standpoint, fusions are an advantage. But this is not good for the notable single stems. Why should we discount large 30000 cubic foot trees like Howland Hill Giant, an undisputed single-stem redwood, by adding up all the volume of fusions? Another issue are disadvantages to fused trees as far as the ranking. Consider that plenty of sugars from one stem go to the other and vice versa. Just measuring the main stem and discounting smaller trees is not a fair assessment, as the large tree would likely be larger if it didn't have another "mouth" to feed. And what about fusions with two or three decent-sized trunks? They deserve a shot at being measured, categorized, and given a "ranking."

As human beings and scientists, we all strive to make things fit into a box, and clonal organisms break every box we try and put on them. Take the question "what is an individual plant?" When does a basal sprout become a tree and when is it simply just a "branch" of the parent tree. And what about genetics? Is an albino branch up in a tree its own individual? What about a 50-foot tall albino basal sprout? There's no easy answer. We look at identical human twins and what makes them different? Their physiological separation, of course. With redwood trees and many other clonal plants, physiology changes from communal to autonomous from a large fairy-ring being communal in the winter to the tree making even individual branches have to produce enough photosynthate to survive in the summer. And from a structural integrity standpoint, generally the limiting factor for size (not height) of any tree, obviously a redwood by itself is less stable than a clonal fusion. A huge fusion rarely can be "blown over," especially if its shape is fairly round. So knowing this, below is an attempt to "create a box," as our humanity desires, for the clonal redwoods.

This will be called the "functional volume (fV) equation" and I am hoping it will be heavily critiqued by you all so we can try and get some sanity as far as how to measure these things. It came from the premise (and discussion with John) about what we define as a "single-stem" redwood. We decided to call a single-stem redwood any redwood that does not split until at least 1/3 the height of the tree. This means for a 300' redwood, any split that is above 100' is an "undisputed single-stem redwood." But here's where it gets interesting. Taking the 300' tree example, a stem split at 50 feet is quite a bit different then a stem split at 20 feet or 10, so obviously the split has a lot to do with a tree's "singleness." From a physiologically-connected point of view, the lower the split, the more distance (and less likely) sugars will travel from one stem to the other.

As John and I were thinking about it, I thought "what if we just take the percentage of an accessory trunk based on our definition of 1/3 equaling a single-stem tree?" I created the below formula and we ran through a plethora of examples to determine how "fair" it was, and it seems quite fair. Below is a photo showing the formula in the easiest way. The idea is that we treat any fusion, that is any set of fused stems less than 1/3 the tallest tree's height, as separate stems that we selectively add together. The selectiveness depends on the height of the split compared to the 1/3 designation. Say we have a split at 50 feet, 1/6th of the total height or 1/2 of 1/3. Then we calculate the volume of the accessory trunk and add 1/2 of the calculated volume to the total volume of the main trunk. That is the essence of our model and it seems to be effective, though everything is "subjective" to a human-being's perspective as to "what is a bigger, more-impressive tree (single-stem, double, fusion, etc.)?"

               
                       
fV Equation.jpg
                       
Functional Volume Equation
               
               


Note:

- For the fused portion of stems, the volume is proportional to the area of the trunks at the split if they were cross-sectioned. If the area of the trunks is 2/3 to 1/3, then the larger trunk is 2/3rds the volume of the fused stem and the secondary trunk is 1/3 the volume of the fused stem. This idea was started by me and enhanced by Yinghai Lu.

- One can also add trunks accordingly, using the split height of the added trunk compared to the total height of the tallest/main trunk within the fusion.

- For big double-trunked trees like Screaming Titans, for example, either one can measure the trunks separately and say that Screaming Titans are two trees with ~15000 cubic feet each (making numbers up here), or one tree with 25000 cubic feet (again, making numbers up--I have not measured the size of Screaming Titans). It gives a measurer flexibility, either categorizing their find as one tree or two, but having both numbers or either categorization being a "fair" assessment.


Conclusion:

The whole reason we decided to do this is so that the Lost Monarch can be fairly assessed just like any other trees that don't really fit into a box. Also, in case there's a misunderstanding, we've found a transitional series with fusions. Some fusions do not have a high split but we know others with an immensely high split that will eventually look like a single-stem in a few hundred years. And then we see those trees that were certainly fusions a few hundred years ago but are now considered single-stems. We have plenty of evidence supporting the fact that fused structures in redwoods are dynamic, changing from clearly fusion to clearly "single-stems," or trees that should have that distinction, anyways. Please vote on the poll.

We all look forward to hearing your comments!

Zane Moore (on behalf of John Montague, Michael Taylor, and Yinghai Lu)
Last edited by yofoghorn on Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
Zane J. Moore
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#2)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby M.W.Taylor » Fri Jul 03, 2015 2:08 am

Zane,

I think most of the known 30k+ redwoods are old fusions of some sort. After doing surface point clouds of a few of these big trunks it became obvious I was looking at two or more fused trunks that take on the appearance of one. This is especially noticeable when you manipulate the point cloud such that you are looking straight down the bole from above. The only giant redwoods I am sure are not fusions would be Howland Hill Giant, Sir Isaac Newton and Bull Creek Giant. All the others are highly elliptical to somewhat elliptical.
I consider any fused redwood to be a single tree if it has the same DNA, such as a basal sprout the fused to the trunk. To accurately volumize this form with no predicable radius, creating a scaled surface point cloud is one way. A tape wrap or relascope might not be very accurate.

So if the tree is a self supporting structure, one genetic specimen, has a single fused base (not two trees pushed up against each other) then I think Zane's formula is better than any other known model.

Michael
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#3)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby dbhguru » Fri Jul 03, 2015 7:02 pm

Zane,

 We congratulate you for tackling this brain-teasing problem. I'll do my best to help you think through your challenging  approach, and in particular, investigate its implications. IBut first,  want to be sure I understand the model. In the example you gave of the split at 50 feet, representing 1/6th of the total height, wouldn't that put the tree in the s<=h/3 category and thus have its volume calculated as just V1 + v2? What am I missing?

Bob
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#4)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby yofoghorn » Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:27 am

dbhguru wrote:Zane,

 We congratulate you for tackling this brain-teasing problem. I'll do my best to help you think through your challenging  approach, and in particular, investigate its implications. IBut first,  want to be sure I understand the model. In the example you gave of the split at 50 feet, representing 1/6th of the total height, wouldn't that put the tree in the s<=h/3 category and thus have its volume calculated as just V1 + v2? What am I missing?

Bob


So I accidentally miswrote the parameters ("if" statements) in the paper. Here is the corrected version. Sorry, my apologies, and a bit of an embarrassment on my part. Just a small typo with huge implications. Here's the beautiful version!
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fV Equation.jpg
CORRECTED Equation File
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#5)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby John Harvey » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:37 am

In the past two weeks after taking time to really get up close and visually examine El Viejo, Iluvitar, Arco, Drury, and Terex Titan, I could also see these "ancient fusions" a lot clearer. I think more than anything its an issue of aesthetics for most. A tree like Arco or Iluvitar, no one will really argue it being a single stem even though to me there are obvious fusions. I think Michaels DNA argument is the key here. If combined with the model you have, the formula works for me. To adhere to the aesthetics argument I believe the height of the split is key. I would even argue that a split should be documented even if a stem refuses itself further up the tree.
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#6)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby Don » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:03 pm

Johnny, Zane, Michael, Bob-
A timely discussion!   Having spent the last couple of years with Bob working out a 'fair' way to measure "standard form" trees, and how to treat single versus multi-stem issues, i like your physiological approach.  For 'standard form' trees, we've gone on record as defining a single stem tree as one with a single pith at ground level.

If I'm reading you guys right, you're making judgements based on external appearance (splits at 50', etc.).  That doesn't exclude two stems that started out 5' apart, then "grew into each other" in the sense that they butted up against each other after growing to combined diameters of 10'. Then they would extrude their growing phloem/cambium annual incrementation out, until sufficient time elapsed that the extrusions would be covered, much like fire scare wounds get grown over...continued growth by both would eventually approach circularity in cross-section, and at some point, perhaps "emerge" at the 60' level again as separate trees...I suspect it is at this point that DNA issue discussions might ensue?  

In the past, my own test was if the stems were not only separated at the base, but also by chronology (different ages, "born" separately too).  

It's at this point that I'd ask Michael, could you elaborate on "has a single fused base (not two trees pushed up against each other)"?  What do you mean by fused base/fusion as used in above discussion?

And yes, this topic isn't the toughest (other non-standard forms come to mind...banyans,etc) but tough enough!  
-Don
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#7)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby Don » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:15 pm

Johnny/Zane/Michael/Bob-
And another thought...early on, Bob and I discussed how to "define big".  In the context of our assigned task, we chose to use essentially two-dimensional measures.  If I'm reading you all right, you're pretty firmly into a three-dimensional definition, and would favor volume as the most apt measure of "bigness"?  I think both Bob and I have similar thoughts on this, albeit down the road a little bit, in the context of the National Register.
What are your thoughts on crown measure...not being a solid mass, it's measure is a little more problematic...volume with "specific gravity/density"?
-Don
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#8)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby John Harvey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:22 pm

I think its impossible to come up with a perfect system with these trees because "appearance" always plays a factor but at the same time can not be used as a measure as it varies from person to person and what appears to the eye may not actually be. Factors like identical DNA, age of the stem, and so on are great but require nothing short of scientific study and goes far beyond traditional "field work".
I apologize for not being able to post photos showing examples of the following as I'm at work. As far as the age of the stems, one would have to surmise that the main trunk of The Lost Monarch is much older than the basal sprouts behind it. Would that exclude those sprouts in the trees measurements regardless of how high they separate from the main trunk? The Terex Titan has at least one/two smaller stem(s) fused to it which I'm sure developed long after the main trunk. The Drury is I think three stems of similar age. Although I haven't hiked back to Mario Vaden's new find yet (largest single stem) you can tell from certain angles that the main trunk is a fusion of (two?) similar sizes. Now we know that size is no indication of age in many cases although both stems having developed in the same environment (equal water supply, location ect) would make similar ages for similar sized stems more likely. Still without coring, what is in some cases a hollow trunk, there's no way to be sure.
In short there is no perfect way or easy way and every tree assigned a "size" will be open to question. That being said this is a step in the right direction.
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#9)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby John Harvey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:36 pm

Here are photo examples of trees mentioned in my last post.
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P1020289.JPG
Basal sprouts at back of Lost Monarch
DSCN4631.JPG
Drury Fusions
DSCN4811.JPG
Obvious Terex Fusion.
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#10)  Re: Measuring Fusions

Postby John Harvey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:09 pm

Here is a tree that will probably eventually progress to something resembling the Drury Tree, a large "single stem" obvious fusion. For now it has a lower split(s) which is slowly becoming a fusion as the three main trunks become larger. Is it "one tree", sprouts with identical DNA that has not progressed to the level where it splits high enough to be one of the "largest trees"? It seems so. Beyond that, 500? or so years down the road could it go even a step further and look like an Iluvitar or Arco where only to the trained eye could it be deemed a fusion? I guess its possible. First the split will become higher and higher until it reaches the point where it is considered one tree by the definition of the formula Zane has given us here.
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Pic 1
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