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1 Introduction

National governments, international organizations, inter-governmental agreements and the public at large demand accurate and compatible information from alternative sources to monitor forests, land use and the terrestrial environment. Large expectations have been put on, e.g., satellite remote sensing to provide a basis for such monitoring, following major investments by governments in satellite-based earth observation systems.

However, national, international and academic institutions have had difficulties to deliver such accurate and compatible information that is useful and relevant for policy formulation, implementation and follow-up. One prominent reason has been the inability of concerned agencies to establish a commonly accepted, independent, cost-effective and long-term mechanism or framework to deliver remote sensing data to users.

An information framework is therefore proposed to take significant steps towards improved monitoring of forests, land use and the environment.

The information framework builds on the fact that the systematic spatial sample based framework approach has a greater potential and efficiency to deliver policy-relevant information at reasonable cost than full-cover ("wall to wall"). The principal advantages of a sample survey as compared to a full-cover survey are reduced cost, greater speed, larger scope and improved accuracy. In particular, a sampling approach makes complications related to image registration and mosaicking less important. It is also easier to include different data types from varying points in time when studying trends. Moreover, the smaller size of the sample makes the supervision more effective and the control over systematic errors and data quality easier.

An informal meeting on "Information Framework for Global Monitoring of Forests, Land Use and the Environment" took place at FAO, Rome, from January 22nd to January 23rd 2003, to evaluate approaches for establishing and developing the information framework and to define the initial steps for its implementation and networking.

Representatives from FAO (Forest Resources Assessment and SDRN), GLCF, GTOS and GOFC-GOLD, JRC/GVM, TRFIC and UNEP participated to the meeting. The list of the participants in the meeting is provided in Annex 1.

Following summarizes the presentations, discussions and recommendations of this meeting. The presentations are available in Annex 2.

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