Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

FAO place the spotlight on forest monitoring

With global concern growing over deforestation, loss of carbon stored in forests and the role of forests in climate change, the spotlight has been turned on forest monitoring in a bid to safeguard forests and monitor emissions from deforestation. Earlier this year, countries and FAO reconfirmed their commitment to jointly prepare the next Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), a comprehensive data collection on the state of the world’s forests which is scheduled for release in 2010.

As part of the FRA 2010, FAO, its member countries and partner organizations will undertake a global remote sensing survey of forests. The survey will substantially improve knowledge on land use change including deforestation, reforestation and natural expansion of forests. The assessment will cover the whole land surface of the Earth with about 9000 samples.

During last week’s G-8 Summit, world leaders “encouraged actions for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) including the development of an international forest monitoring network building on existing initiatives”.

The main global initiative will be the FRA 2010 survey with key outcomes:

  • Baseline information at the global and regional level on trends in the rate of deforestation, afforestation and natural expansion of forests over the past 30 years;
  • A global framework and commonly agreed methodology for monitoring forest change;
  • An information gateway providing easy access to remote sensing imagery;
  • Enhanced capacity in all countries for monitoring, assessing and reporting on forests and land use changes.

FRA 2010 will strengthen the capacity of all countries to monitor their own forests. “The need to improve national forest monitoring is overwhelming as the demand for information has never been greater,” noted Jan Heino, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry: “National policy processes are striving to address cross-cutting issues such as poverty alleviation and food security related to forests.”

Capacity building

FAO supports country efforts to close the knowledge gap through field inventories and forest monitoring systems. The national forest monitoring and assessment (NFMA) programme of FAO has been active since 2000 in a growing number of countries. Forest and integrated land use assessments cover forest lands and trees outside forests. They encompass a wide set of variables to improve knowledge on social, economic and environmental benefits of forests.

Both FRA and NFMA strengthen the ability of developing countries to manage their forestry information base for their own benefit. A global network of forest monitoring specialists in 176 countries share information and experiences. National experts lead the assessments. Field teams carry out all fieldwork, and national experts interpret remote sensing imagery.

“Deforestation continues at an alarming rate of about 13 million hectares annually at the global level. By combining remote sensing technology with field data collection, we improve the quality of both methods. This provides more accurate information on forest trends and new information on the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation,” concludes Jan Heino.

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