For some time, structure indices – quantifying spatial stand structure – have been integrated into forest research and are used to provide a measure of biodiversity. In addition, correlation functions – developed initially for problems outside forestry – enable analysis and characterization of forest stand structures, generating more accessible information. This paper outlines a classification of structural indices measuring alpha diversity and examines typical representatives of the classification groups such as the Shannon index, the aggregation index of Clark and Evans, the contagion index, the coefficient of segregation of Pielou, the mingling index, the diameter differentiation index, the pair correlation and the mark correlation function. These can be used to measure differences between forests in time and space, to generate forest structures, to analyse the differences between observed and expected structures and to characterize modifications of forest structure resulting from selective harvesting. These algorithms are the keys for assessing complex forest structures, which can be the result of continuous cover forestry methods. Continuous cover forests with selective harvesting are being promoted in the new forest policies of Britain. Case studies have shown that from given spatial forest structures one can possibly conclude the suitability for habitats, a hypothesis which has yet to be proved by further appropriate analysis. The equations for the quantification of stand structure presented in this paper have the advantage that they are easier to survey during forest inventory than the more direct measures of ecological variety.

Received 14 February 2001.

Author notes

1School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, Wales