System diagnosis is not that simple. One method of measuring is the transect, a cross-section and side view of the system (and its projection) as it occurs. We use the set developed and applied by Oldeman (1974). He expressed that the natural forest ecosystem “demands recording methods that do justice to and provide information about variation and capture the specific: heterogeneity, structure and growth processes”.

Oldeman (1983) stated: “In principle, these have much in common with the methods traditionally used in microscopy. Just as under the microscope, a slice of tissue is measured and drawn, so a transect represents a slice of the forest.” He builds upon a long history of forest transect drawing. Kraft drew in 1884 one of the first transects (Houtzagers, 1956). Richards (1952) started drawing tropical forest profile diagrams. Many researchers followed, all for the same purpose, to provide insight into the forest. Oldeman innovated the transect by advanced measurement techniques and integrated diagnosis by combining three scientific perspectives: physiology, morphology and ecology.

Two- or three-dimensional

Oldeman explains: “A transect can be represented in many ways. For example, along a line or strip across the landscape, one can rank species found from meter to meter or estimate biomass. This produces species lists or biomass graphs plotted against a single spatial coordinate. Obviously, this is meaningful for plants but not for animals. Adding a second spatial coordinate results in a surface area. Then, the results are usually drawn: height/distance in a profile diagram and width/distance in a map or plan. A three-dimensional image of the investigated forest is created if both are used together.”

The fourth dimension: time

A first attempt to include the factor of time as a fourth dimension, allowing something about history and future possibilities to be read from transects, is the analysis by Zukrigl et al. (1963) of primaeval forest remnants in Lower Austria. These authors also list the dead and fallen wood and stumps so that a past condition can be approximated via the traces it left behind. Utilising growth ring analysis and deadwood research. Oliver (1978) reconstructed seventy years of history of an oak-maple forest in Massachusetts in ten-year stages. The study by Hallé and Oldeman (1970) and Oldeman (1974) on tropical trees showed the morphological architecture of the trees carried a chronological message. In fact, Roelof Oldeman brought with Francis Hallé the innovation needed—an exact, integrated, actual and forest ecosystem non-disturbing method of measuring.

Transposition from forest to city

His method of transects drawing is transposed to the ecosystem city. Organisations form the components, the organisms of the ecosystem. Imagine how these organisms show in spaces and look in real life is challenging. The forest transect from a field perspective can be of great inspiration. Transects from the eagle perspective contain a lot of socionomic information.


Houtzagers, G. (1956) Houtteelt der gematigde luchtstreek (2). Zwolle: Tjeenk Willink. 438 p.

Oldeman, R.A.A. (1974) L’architecture de la forêt guyanaise. Mémoires ORSTOM, 73. p.204.

Oldeman, R.A.A., Westra, J. J.  &  Tenge, O. R. (1983) Bosontwikkelingen, natuurwaarde en transectanalyse. Nederlands Bosbouwtijdschrift: 55-6, p.242-257. link

Richards, P. W. (1952) The tropical rain forest. Cambridge Univ. Press. 450 p.

Zukrigl, K., Eckhart, G.  & J. Nather, (1963). Standortskundliche und waldbauliche Untersuchungen in Urwaldresten der niederösterreichischen Kalkalpen. Mitt. Forstl. Bundesversuchsanstalt, Wien, nr. 62, 244 p.