FOREST RESOURCES ASSESSMENT PROGRAMME
Presentation – Cambridge workshop, 28 July 1999
Mission of FAO and objectives in Forest Resources Assessment 2000
The state of the world’s forest is of continuing concern. Previous global assessments have revealed an alarming degree of degradation, fragmentation and depletion of forests. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro 1992, high-lighted these concerns, which have continued through a number of follow-on conferences.
The Forest Resources Assessment Programme, implemented by FAO, Rome, and UN-ECE Geneva, addresses these concerns by providing periodic assessments of the world’s forest resources. The factual information provided by these assessments is used by international organisations, non-governmental organisations, individual countries, and others in debating forest policy and forging solutions to identified problems.
The mission of FAO’s forest resources assessment programme, carried out by the Forestry Department, is to provide the world community reliable information to describe and understand the situation of the world’s forests and related resources and how they change over time. To carry out this mission, FAO’s Forest Resources Assessment Programme:
1. Supports capacity building by providing technical assistance to developing countries in the conduct of national forestry assessments;
2. Co-ordinates forest resources assessments for both developing and industrialised countries; and
3. Produces global forest resources assessment databases and periodic reports.
The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000) is presently the main activity within the Programme and will report on the state of the world’s forest by the year 2000. The objective is to provide a source of information and knowledge on the world’s forest resources. FRA 2000 is expected to stimulate discussion at all levels as well as decision making on the management and conservation of forests on a global scale.
FRA 2000 is carried out in two parts: assessment of (a) temperate and boreal regions, jointly conducted by UN-ECE and FAO and (b) the tropics and subtropics, carried out by FAO. The assessment work is carried out in close cooperation with the contributing countries.
Information content of FRA2000
The framework and information content of FRA 2000 was discussed during an Expert Consultation held in Kotka, Finland (Kotka III) in June 1996. The objectives of the meeting were to agree on the FRA2000 Agenda and how to respond to new information requirements that came up since the 1990 assessment. The FRA 2000 information content is:
Forest and land cover estimates : status 2000 and change
Ecological aspects of forest
Economic potential of forest
There are three main areas or components of the assessment:
1) ASSESSMENT BASED ON EXISTING INFORMATION: based on existing country information, i.e. land cover and forest inventory data, information on extent and condition of forest is being compiled To make the figures comparable between countries, the inventory results are standardized to a common classification system. Compilation and analysis is done in close cooperation with the countries.
2) REMOTE SENSING SURVEY: based on interpretation and analysis of a sample of multi-date Landsat images, forest cover changes are analysed. This survey was first carried out in the 1990 assessment for the tropics, and the same sample locations will be revisited. The study will provide information on the rate and nature of deforestation, forest fragmentation and forest degradation.
3) SPECIAL STUDIES: including the development of new global maps and special studies on: status of protected areas and assessment of biodiversity indicators, plantation forests, non-wood forest products, fellings and removals, trees outside forests.
The main outputs of FRA2000 will be:
1. country reports or profiles, containing a comprehensive presentation of its forest resources. They will include descriptive parts (e.g. geography, natural woody vegetation) and tables presenting forest resources statistics
2. Global and regional synthesis reports of the country tables and profiles
3. Synthesis reports on thematic issues, including results of the remote sensing survey and the special studies
4. New global maps and related databases: forest cover, ecological zoning, protected area.
Results will be available both as printed reports and on the World Wide Web.
Goal and objectives
The classification, analysis and mapping of the world’s ecological zones or (forest) ecosystems provide an essential tool for environmental monitoring and management. Information on forests by ecological zone will for instance contribute to understanding the implications of forest change on biological diversity and carbon-cycling processes.
The Kotka III meeting considered the reporting of forest information by ecological zone as a high priority. It recommended developing a globally consistent ecological zoning scheme, building upon the FRA1990 experience for the tropics and extending the coverage to include the temperate and boreal forests.
Following these recommendations the goal of FRA 2000 is to produce a globally consistent ecological zone map and database, for reporting on forests and other relevant information needed for FRA 2000. The specific objectives are:
5. To develop a global classification concept and system for ecological zoning
6. To improve/update the EZ maps for the tropical regions
7. To develop new EZ maps for the non-tropical regions
8. To produce a global EZ database and map, and worldwide forest statistics by ecological zone.
As this task is complex and ambitious, the scope and perspective are long-term and extend beyond the time frame of FRA2000, with the first phase being completed for FRA2000. Once a global framework has been developed and agreed upon, a further and continuous improvement of the map is anticipated, for instance including development or sub-division into more detailed regional Ecological zones.
Purpose and uses of the map and database
Main purpose and uses of the Global EZ map and database will include:
- Area of forest and other wooded land (year 2000)
- Change in forest and other wooded lands (1990 – 2000)
- Number, area and status of protected areas
- Forest volume and biomass
- use for post-stratification and ecological reporting in the remote sensing based forest survey
- use in assessment and analysis of forest-based biological diversity, both at ecosystem – and species level
- stratification for biomass modelling.
Through these various uses of the map and database, valuable insight can be obtained regarding characteristics of forest resources, which may serve to identify and resolve issues of importance to many countries, entire regions or even the whole globe (e.g. conservation of biological diversity, mitigation of global climate change).
In view of FAO’s needs a number of thematic and technical requirements or targets are pursued in the development of the ecological zone classification and map:
1. To achieve meaningful reporting, classes in a global ecological framework must identify and accurately group broad yet relatively homogenous formations of forest vegetation.
2. The concept and process for classification needs to be scientifically sound, transparent, and compatible among various regions
3. Establishment of a hierarchical system, allowing to report at various levels (global classes cannot be too many, not too few)
4. Appropriate resolution or scale
5. Appropriate (digital) format and projection.
6. Broad support and involvement of regional experts.
Feedback during the Cambridge workshop will give insight on how well we can meet these requirements, considering time frame, technical constraints etc.
Approach and Development of the map
FAO is collaborating with the following partners in the development of the global EZ map. Organization of work is:
Overall leadership, technical and conceptual guidance
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Conceptual and logistic support
EROS Data Center
Development of EZ for non-tropical regions
Aggregation and final production
EZ for the Tropics
For FRA2000 purposes it was considered that the development of a completely new map from scratch is not feasible given time and budget constraints. Another option is to use and adapt an existing global map, for which several data sets are available (e.g. Bailey, Holdridge). However, these maps are generally developed by scientists without support and concensus building of the international comunity. FAO therefore opts for an intermediate approach, by developing a global classification framework and using and translating existing regional/national maps into this framework for defining the EZ boundaries. FAO considers consultation and involvement of regional experts essential in this process. At the same time, such a consultative approach will help to achieve broad support and use of the map, and could also facilitate further development and improvements of the map beyond FRA2000.
The development of the FRA2000 EZ map is a logical continuation and expansion of the tropical ecological zoning done for the previous assessment. During the FRA 1990, FAO produced a set of ecofloristic zone maps for the tropics in co-operation with the Laboratory for Terrestrial Ecology of Toulouse, France. Maps and reports were prepared for Tropical Asia, Africa and Latin America. Existing national – and regional (potential) vegetation maps were used and brought into a common classification framework, to produce the maps. The first or broad level of classification is of ecological order, based on climatic and physiographic factors. The climatic criteria include rainfall regime (amount, seasonality, length of Dry period, evotranspiration), temperature and relative humidity. At a more detailed level, the dominant or characteristic species of flora were taken into account to define the Ecofloristic zones.
The maps were used to generate 1990 forest area estimates by ecological zone at various levels; country, region and pan-tropics. The ecological zoning was also used in the development of adjustment functions to estimate forest area changes. A third use was the application in the RS- based pan-tropical forest survey and study of change processes, both for stratification and reporting purposes.
The current meeting is a key step in the development of the Ecological zoning system, with the aim to review FAO’s proposed approach. Leading scientists and researchers from the major geographical and ecological regions are attending. Inputs and recommendations from the participating experts will provide important guidance for the exercise. The workshop objectives are:
1. Review, discuss and reach consensus on the final classification and mapping system for the Global Ecological Zone map, including concepts and defining criteria
2. Provide guidance on procedures and systems to (a) aggregate local/regional maps to the global map, and (b) match various national/regional maps to form a single common map
3. Show the various uses of the map, for example the production of forest statistics regarding forest cover, forest conservation, and others
4. Define a strategy and work plan to produce the global EZ map with involvement of regional experts and institutions.
I would like to conclude with a few quotations from experts in the field of ecosystem - and vegetation classification, to illustrate the complexity and challenge of our task:
“Köppen’s system is simple, based on quantitative criteria, and correlated well with the distribution of many natural phenomena, such as vegetation and soil”. (Bailey 1996)
“While the Köppen system has proved to be a useful classroom tool for geographers and climatologists, its usefulness at the practical level is limited because it fails to correlate well with natural vegetation and other divisions of environment.” (Holdridge 1971)
“At an operational level, an ecosystem is not a self-defining unit of analysis (such as a cell or a tree), but instead is a model of human construction.” (Binkley 1996)
“This whole system of plant “formations” is a highly simplified and artificial concept, conceived at a desk without detailed knowledge of the diversity of the vegetation of other continents. It bears little relationship to reality.” (Walter 1985)
See Appendix 4, Annex B. Review of Existing Global Ecological Zoning Systems
See Appendix 4, Background Document “A Strategy for Ecological Zoning for the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000”
See Appendix 4, Annex A. The Canada-USA Case Study