Please consider my main comments on the Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring:
- As general observation, the VG will help the countries to establish their systems, as well as they will serve as a reference for the increasing community interested in forest monitoring in the context of international agenda that use the information coming from NFMS (UNFCC, CBD, etc);
- I think that term National Forest Assessment and Monitoring (NFAM system) seems to be more appropriate. Monitoring means to assess in time, being therefore just a characteristic of the system, less important that the assessment itself; Most of the NFIs are designed to be continuous forest inventories, which is the monitoring functionality of them;
- Despite the proposal try to differentiate between NFI and by stating a definition or meaning for national forest monitoring (Section I: “…a comprehensive process that includes collection, analysis and dissemination of forest related data and the derivation of information….”), it seems that both the proposed definition and the content of the whole guidelines are quite related to national forest inventories (NFIs);
- It is important to establish a much more clear link between NFIs and the proposed term NFMS, as for many country one can affirm they are completely different things and weak NFI processes already in place (it can happen, believe);
- There could be a Glossary with the main terms of the “forest monitoring” at the end of the document;
- The figure 1 (page 7) is very helpful for giving a general view of the framework in which a NFMS should be developed; It could be helpful also if similar figures were provided at some lower levels (data management, for example); The text is to dense!
- I found almost nothing about the importance of species botanical identification in the context of the NFMS. It is important to note that species variable only matter when the species are well identified and, for tropical countries, their scientific botanical identification is crucial for the quality of information;
- In item 2.3 (developing partnerships and collaboration) it should be helpful to have a list of relevant fields of the NFMS; and also a list of the main (item 3.2) stakeholders groups normally involved or interested in NFMS;
- There should be guidelines on how to integrate NFMS with other agendas at national (agriculture, for example) and at international level (climate change, biodiversity, etc);
- At the end of the guidelines there could be a framework to help countries to measure the progress towards their NFMS planning and implementation. It could be a “check list” matrix with the main content of the VG in a format that one could “check” what is already available and what is not yet;
- I missed a section dedicated to the main results or group of results that a NFMS should provide and, more important, a possible path to link these results to police formulation or potential applications at national level;
- In the item 4.1.4 (Review of existing information) you could provide pros and cons of using old and existing forest inventories as base for new NFMS;
- It would be good to mention the link between NFMS and NFIS (national forest information systems), for example as one the main provider (NFMS) of forest information on the forest resources;
- I expected to find more about the socioeconomic aspect of a NFMS, as the interviews as part of the NFI are being used by some countries and also it seems to be considered as important by FAO; There should be similar guidelines on this topic for sampling design, variables and statistical analysis.
- The “dynamic” aspect of the NFMS was almost forgot; There could be at least a section dedicated to how to deal with the long term dimension of NFMS and with the statistical implications of calculating changes in time;
- The use of new technologies and trends in forest monitoring could be part of the VG;
- Despite the Remote Sensing is mentioned in the item 4.2.1 in the context of the statistical design, I think that more emphasis could be given to their use as part of the NFMS. Questions like “Is it possible to have a NFMS based only in remote sensing?” and “How remote sensing could be one of the pillars for field work planning and to scale up ground plot data?” Are the guidelines only on the traditional ground national forest inventories?
- When we think about national forest inventory is very clear that we should have one standard methodology for the whole country, an appropriate sampling design and one plot configuration as much as possible. However, when thinking about a NFM “system” it could be important to mention something about sub national initiatives when they are also doing forest monitoring at smaller scales. For example, permanent sample plots within Forest Management Units designed for forest dynamics and growth and yield studies (m3/ha/year) and even plots designed to monitor biodiversity. Perhaps a small topic on the possibility of including such other monitoring system as national information could be appropriate, off course without mixing data. By non-mentioning them, it seems that they are not forest monitoring, they do not exist or are useless for the NFM system, which is not true.