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It is well known that long-term systematic observations of terrestrial ecosystems are inadequate for accurately measuring and understanding the processes of global environmental change. Although satellite observing systems can generate vast amounts of data and go a long way in filling some of these gaps, the results need to be verified in situ.

In situ observations - measurements that are taken directly on the ground by scientists and resource managers - are a key element in ensuring the accuracy and validation of global change products. However, much more investment in in situ observing systems is needed to realize this goal.

Carbon is a good example of why in situ data are so vitally important. To understand the terrestrial carbon cycle, data are needed on land use and land-cover change, forest cover and change, soil characteristics, fire, biomass and net primary productivity, to name just a few. The accuracy of these measurements has a significant influence on the accuracy of global estimates of terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes and on climate change policy discussions and decisions taken by countries. In the end, these decisions have important economic implications for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

This report is a first attempt to mobilize the community of terrestrial and atmospheric scientists towards taking a systematic and collaborative approach to improving in situ carbon data availability and strengthening the institutional capacity, in particular in the developing countries.

The benefits of improved in situ terrestrial carbon observations within the TCO framework will mean that countries can generate accurate estimates of their national and regional carbon stocks and fluxes as well as make more informed decisions related to the sustainable use and management of their cropland, forest and grazing land resources.

Jacques Eckebil
Assistant Director-General
FAO Sustainable Development Department

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