Reliance on country information
One of the greatest strengths of FRA 2000 was its reliance on the participation of individual countries, for both supply and analysis of information. It is hoped that this approach will greatly increase the likelihood that the countries will use the information to make and implement effective forest policies, and that demand for forest-related information will lead to further capacity building. While countries firmly support this approach, it has sometimes been criticized on the grounds that country information may be inaccurate or biased. FAO has addressed such concerns related to information quality by the use where possible of primary technical documents as sources of statistical information for the assessment, rather than quoted, subjective or secondary sources. Unfortunately, many countries still lack reliable primary technical information at the national level. This is a potential problem, but it is believed that the strengths of country involvement greatly outweigh the disadvantages. The goal of future assessments will be to further strengthen country capabilities and participation. In this way, FAO intends to improve the information quality as well as to assist developing countries in their inventories.
Remote sensing data compared with national inventories
The potential of remote sensing data to contribute to assessments of changes in forest cover over large land areas was demonstrated by the FRA 2000 pan-tropical remote sensing survey and the global maps. More intensive coverage would have been better than the 10 percent sample used for the pan-tropical survey component of FRA 2000, but resources were lacking to carry out a more intensive survey. In addition, there are limits to the potential of remote sensing for assessing key parameters other than forest area change, and full access to remote sensing technology is out of reach for many developing countries. FAO plans to continue to use country information combined with remote sensing in future assessments, but also to emphasize field observations as a means of gathering broad and representative information.
Changes in definitions
As requested by the IPF, FRA 2000 used a new definition of forest which resulted in an upward revision of global forest cover compared with recent assessments. However, the continued use of different definitions in the developing and industrialized countries would have perpetuated the incompatibility in the two sets of estimates. The previously published FRA 1980 and 1990 figures cannot be directly compared to FRA 2000 results. The remote sensing survey gives compatible change information for the tropics for the periods 1980-1990 and 1990-2000.
Inclusion of forest plantations in forest area
FRA 2000 has included plantations in the statistical estimates for forest area. This is not intended to imply that plantations are equivalent to natural forests. Great care has been taken to keep the statistics for natural and planted forests separate so that readers can draw the conclusions they feel are relevant for their needs.