I am involved in a tree tagging project. What are the best methods or devices for measuring things like height, tree age, and tree health?

  • 1
    Sounds like a great question for your local university forestry program or agriculture outreach folks.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 22 at 16:12
  • I would expect the project to have a set of instructions or at least guidance. If you are the coordinator and do not have them ask the organization that is involved.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 23 at 4:42

1 Answer 1


Tagging is traditionally done with a short alpha-numeric code on a metal tag and a nail. Tags are something like these ones from Landmark Trading (no affiliation or recommendation, just one near the top of a search). However, depending on density, these days you could use a GPS tag.

The nails are normally driven in only part-way and on a gentle slope, slightly above horizontal, so that the tag falls against the tree and won't end up swinging in the breeze to eventually wear through the nail and fall off. The part-way bit allows growth of the tree without them swallowing the tag, so you do have to come back and replace every few years as the trees grow outward. They are often placed at a designated height above the ground for stem diameter measurements. This is usually above the normal height of root buttresses for the species you are working with.

Height is easily measured using an inclinometer and a tape measure. Measure your distance away from the tree using the tape, measure the angle to the top of the tree using the inclinometer and use some good old fashioned trigonometry to work out the height. You do need to account for slope of the ground in this - two calculations involved; one to get your distance above/below to horizontal and the second to get the tree height from horizontal. There are fancy transponder based inclinometers out there that will do the calculations for you without tape measures.

Health is subjective and usually based on experience as to how the tree looks - you need to come up with a scoring system of some sort. It might be something like 0 for dead ranging up to 10 for full health.

Age is best done with a core for exact age estimates, however there may be age estimation methods for various tree species in the literature, especially commercial ones.

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