Voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring


Forest monitoring has become a key issue in national and international development policy. Information provided by forest monitoring activities goes beyond forest boundaries and can be used as an indicator for several environmental and social parameters. Yet, in many countries, the capacity  to collect, analyze and utilize forest resources data is lacking or inadequate.

The need for a set of guidelines on forest monitoring was ratified during COFO 2012 as the expression of member countries to receive support in strengthening national forest information systems for the collection of timely, comparable and consistent  forest related information.  In addition, the Cancún Agreements [COP16, 2010] explicitly recommend that national forest monitoring systems be established to monitor and report the five activities of REDD+.

This is in line with the mandate of FAO and one of its core functions: to collect, analyze and disseminate information on forestry and other land uses. Better information leads to better decisions, which lead to better actions!


The guidelines aim to present a general framework to compile good practice principles, methodologies and tools for planning and implementing a multi-purpose national forest inventory and to establish long-term forest monitoring systems grounded in sound practice.


The guidelines are designed as a technical reference or framework that can be used taking into consideration the needs and capacities of member countries. They present the rationale for action, identify roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and describe the engagement needed for implementing a national forest monitoring process.


  • Forest operators, state and local forestry agencies, timber companies, indigenous people, conservationists.
  • Policymakers in forestry and related sectors.
  • Agencies, institutions and firms interested in the ecosystem services provided by forests.
  • Forest research, education and training institutions.
  • International funding and development agencies.


  • Section I - Introduction, rationale, definitions of the main components of an NFI, sustainability indicators.
  • Section II – Definition of the Principles guiding an NFI.
  • Section III - Recommendations on thematic fields: land use/land cover classification systems, sampling design, field implementation, remote sensing, carbon pools, biodiversity, allometric equations, socio-economics, quality assurance, information systems, data management governance, international reporting, data sharing policy and references to recommended literature and manuals.


The process of defining the Voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring has just started. During the next months consultations and technical
workshops will be organized with a wide stakeholders involvement and contribution from forest inventory experts. Help us disseminate our work and contact us to see how you can contribute and support this initiative. 

last updated:  Friday, September 27, 2013