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The sustainable development of forests has emerged as one of the most difficult, serious, and pressing environmental issues of our time. Human-induced changes in Earth's forests have affected natural resource availability, biodiversity, atmospheric composition, and climate. Satellite observations provide a unique source of consistent information about forests over wide areas in a short period of time. Such observations are necessary to begin understanding the complex feedback processes between forests and climate change. They also provide resource managers with the information they need to assess the current state of the forests, weigh the requirements of different uses by multiple stakeholders, and manage forestland resources in a sustainable manner. It is important to recognize, however, that the information provided from satellites complements, but does not replace, the detailed information obtained form aerial photography and ground-based measurements.

Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) is a coordinated international effort working to provide ongoing space-based and in-situ observations of forests and other vegetation cover, for the sustainable management of terrestrial resources and to obtain an accurate, reliable, quantitative understanding of the terrestrial carbon budget. Originally developed as a pilot project by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) as part of their Integrated Global Observing Strategy, GOFC-GOLD is now a panel of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS).

GOFC-GOLD is working to accomplish its objectives by:
  • Providing a forum for users of satellite data to discuss their needs and for producers to respond through improvements to their programs;
  • Providing regional and global datasets containing information on:
    • Location of different forest types;
    • Major changes in forest cover;
    • Biological functioning of forests (this will help quantify the contribution forests make as absorbers and emitters of greenhouse gases).
  • Promoting globally consistent data processing and interpretation methods;
  • Promoting international networks for data access, data sharing, and international collaboration;
  • Stimulating the production of improved products.

Potential users of GOFC-GOLD products include global change researchers, international agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations, and international treaties and conventions (such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change). One of the most important challenges facing GOFC-GOLD is to develop methods and implement systems that provide both research and operational information on a regular sustained basis.

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FAO ©   ···   GOFC-GOLD  ···   last updated: 21 January 2010