I appreciate your comments. If you look at what I write when I do trip reports, I always try to include a description of the overall site and of the forest in general, along with what historical context I can find for the site. I have in the past also had a tendency to rail against modelers who tend to ignore things they cannot easily quantify in their model and would simply pretend these factors did not even exist. At some point we need as a group to do better in our descriptions of sites we visit. I was so impressed, when I first started to participate, by the detail found in the reports published by Will Blozan and Jess Riddle in particular as they gave an impression of the overall forest, instead of just being a tabulation of numbers.
This brings me to the odd formed trees you are finding in the tropics. My multitrunk classification here: http://www.nativetreesociety.org/multi/index_multi.htm
is meant to be a guideline of how to approach the measurement of some of these odd forms. “The odd forms include those forms that grew because of unusual circumstances that affected the tree, or those trees that simply have an unusual growth form not seen in most other tree species.” They were devised as an approach to the problem of measuring these odd trees and not meant to be a rigid list of this must be done, and that must be done, but a way of looking at them. I suggested what thought were things that could be measured on these forms and put it out there for discussion, but I received few comments and little input on the concepts.
The approach I would take now on these trees is not so much different. Since most of these trees are unique or unusual in there form and not amenable to easy measurement, the best approach, in my opinion, is to write a detailed narrative description of the tree with what measurements we can take used to amplify and better illuminate the descriptions. My general comments above in post #16 still seem to be applicable:
We need to get a handle on what changes in the specimens as they grow from a smaller unit to a larger mass. What changes in terms of defined trunks, crown shape, etc. - how do the larger forms evolve over time and is that something we can breakdown into stages? What can we document, what can we describe, what can we photograph, and what can we measure that better help us describe this growth process? What variations are there between large specimens of a particular species or group of closely related species, and what is the cause of these variations? What differences are there between open grown specimens and those grown in a forested setting with other tall trees? How can we capture those differences?
These are still things we should try to investigate, even if the results are in a written narrative form rather than a collection of numerical measurements. There are some things we should be trying to consistently measure whenever possible. I think height is something that is measurable. The area occupied by the trunks and the area occupied by the crown are similar values and are generally measurable. The area occupied by the trunks might be easier to measure in some cases. In open areas where the crown area could be measured more easily, maybe both values could be measured. I would still like to see where applicable as idea of how many large trunks are included in the tree complex and the approximate size of the largest trunk if possible. Other measurements could be taken where they seem to add to the narrative description of that particular tree.
I think there are measurements we should plan on taking, and that should be measurable in most cases. The maximum height of the complex should be measurable, the area occupied by the multiple trunks should be measurable, and in many cases the crown area should be measurable. GPS locations should be taken whenever possible. We need to know the location of our trees. If you can’t use a GPS instrument, the locations should be pulled from Google Maps, or topographic maps where possible. Beyond this are things like number of trunks larger than x value, the maximum girth of the largest trunk, and whatever seems appropriate for that particular tree. So I would favor narrative descriptions, with some specific measurements that are included in most descriptions, and other measurements where useful to better describe the tree within the narrative.
I also want to emphasize the importance of photographs of the tree. There needs to be a process or system whereby the photos of a particular tree can be associated with the description of the tree in the researcher’s notes. The goal of the narrative and measurements is to document the tree. Photographs can immensely improve the understanding of what is being described, and help readers to visualize the tree.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky