Voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring

Online consultation on the first draft of the FAO voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring

This discussion is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.

The preparation of the voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring began in September 2012. The guidelines will present a set of good practice principles supported by a set of decision-making tools for the planning and implementation of a multipurpose, scientifically sound NFMS.

Phase I of the drafting process has already been completed (and endorsed by COFO 22 in July 2014); this phase included the development of a definition of national forest monitoring, and a description of the guidelines’ scope and principles (Sections I and II). Phase II, currently under way, will be a compilation of good practices and technical recommendations on national forest monitoring (Section III).

The first draft of Section III has now been prepared and, as part of the consultative process prior to its finalization and external peer review, the FAO Forestry Department sought your input to further improve the draft. This was carried out through an online consultation managed by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition.

Following an expert workshop to validate the technical recommendations, the guidelines will be released for the consideration of COFO at its 23rd Session in July 2016.

Comments and input were welcome on all chapters of Section III, but in particular on the following aspects:

  • Does the draft adequately cover all elements needed to establish and sustain an NFMS?
  • What other technical, logistical or policy issues should the document cover?
  • Given that the voluntary guidelines are being designed for use by NFMS managers, what aspects of Section III could be improved to meet this objective?
  • Is there any redundant content that could be removed to make the document more concise?

The draft document was uploaded on the FSN Forum Web site, and it will be accessible for comments at http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/forestry from October 1st to October 21st 2015.

Thank you very much for engaging with FAO Forestry on this consultation.


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.

Target audience

  • 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.

last updated:  Monday, November 30, 2015