It gives me pleasure to introduce the reader of this report to the important topic of terrestrial carbon observations. Although not yet widely recognized, carbon sequestration and fluxes are relevant not only to the climate change debate. They are also key factors in sustaining agricultural productivity, biodiversity and forest ecosystem processes.
Much of our work in FAO provides technical and policy assistance aimed at reducing food insecurity for nearly 800 million people who suffer chronically from insufficient access to food.
An important dimension of this effort is management of the data and information required to assess the factors that reduce food insecurity, to develop policies and to promote international action. FAO is a key international reference point for reliable, long-term data and information on natural resources. The environment, agriculture, crop production, forestry resources and sustainable fisheries are just a few areas where our global datasets are in high demand.
FAO recognizes the need to address issues related to rapid global environmental changes, in particular the loss of biological diversity, desertification and climate change. Many of our member countries suffer not only from chronic drought but also from vulnerability to longer-term changes that may affect their ability to produce food. Thus, climate change is of considerable concern.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol have done much to draw attention to this important problem and provide an international forum for addressing it. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide, is at the centre of the debate and a thorough understanding of the carbon cycle is central to this process.
I am, therefore, pleased that the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), which FAO has been hosting for the past seven years, has led this international effort in collaboration with the International Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) partnership. The Terrestrial Carbon Observation (TCO) initiative is aimed at providing data and information needed to understand better the terrestrial carbon cycle.
This assessment evaluates where we presently stand, the gaps and the observations that are needed. It will be complemented in the near future by a strategy and framework for improving systematic terrestrial carbon observations that assist countries to understand how their policies and land-use decisions can affect the global climate and their national well-being.
FAO Sustainable Development Department
Terrestrial Carbon Observation: The Ottawa assessment of requirements, status and next steps
Editors J. Cihlar, A.S. Denning and J. Gosz
108 pp, 15 figures, 18 tables, 3 appendixes, Environment and Natural Resources Series No. 2, FAO, Rome, 2002