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UN embarks on worldwide survey to assess deforestation

UN embarks on worldwide survey to assess deforestation

Government trainees and forest workers make a tree inventory, Philippines
As part of efforts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world’s forests, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its partners will be carrying out a global remote sensing survey of these vital ecosystems.

Global concern has been growing in recent years over deforestation, loss of carbon stored in forests and the role of forests in climate change, giving rise to increased interest in monitoring to protect forests and to track emissions from deforestation.

FAO and its partners have set out to jointly prepare the next Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), a comprehensive data collection on the state of the world’s forests – to be released in 2010 – that 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.”

As part of this effort, they will be undertaking a global remote sensing survey of forests that will greatly enhance 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 9,000 samples.

“Deforestation continues at an alarming rate of about 13 million hectares annually at the global level,” noted Mr. Heino.

“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,” he stated.

FAO has been supporting countries to monitor their forests through initiatives such as the agency’s national forest monitoring and assessment (NFMA) programme, which involves a global network of forest monitoring specialists in 176 countries who share information and experiences, as well as national experts who lead the assessments.