GTOS is a programme for observations, modelling, and analysis
of terrestrial ecosystems to support sustainable development.
GTOS facilitates access to information on terrestrial ecosystems
so that researchers and policy makers can detect and manage
global and regional environmental change.
How does the earth tolerate and respond to increasing human
pressure on its land, water and atmosphere? We do not know.
Twenty years ago, this was a politically charged question.
Now, it reflects the concerns of environmentalists, economists,
citizens and decision-makers alike. The 1992 Rio Summit,
along with other international ecology conventions, has
reinforced the need for specific, reliable international
data on environmental conditions and trends. In 1996, four
United Nations bodies and an international scientific community
created the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) to
help confront this challenge (details
on the five founding bodies).
GTOS has two sister observing systems, the Global Climate
Observing System (GCOS),
and the Global Oceanic Observing System (GOOS).
Each system is part of the larger plan to provide comprehensive,
global data on the biophysical environment, ecosystem processes
and the socio-economic forces that influence them. This
knowledge base is a prerequisite for effective planetary
The specific aim of GTOS is to improve the quality and coverage
of terrestrial data, to integrate it into a worldwide base
and to facilitate its access by scientists, policy makers
and the public.
Since 1996, GTOS has been working to answer five key questions: