Home > Organization

Steering committee  |  SponsorsDonors  |  Partners  |  Secretariat

Mission statement
GTOS is a programme for observations, modelling, and analysis of terrestrial ecosystems to support sustainable development.

GTOS facilitates access to information on terrestrial ecosystems so that researchers and policy makers can detect and manage global and regional environmental change.

How does the earth tolerate and respond to increasing human pressure on its land, water and atmosphere? We do not know. Twenty years ago, this was a politically charged question. Now, it reflects the concerns of environmentalists, economists, citizens and decision-makers alike. The 1992 Rio Summit, along with other international ecology conventions, has reinforced the need for specific, reliable international data on environmental conditions and trends. In 1996, four United Nations bodies and an international scientific community created the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) to help confront this challenge (details on the five founding bodies).

GTOS has two sister observing systems, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), and the Global Oceanic Observing System (GOOS). Each system is part of the larger plan to provide comprehensive, global data on the biophysical environment, ecosystem processes and the socio-economic forces that influence them. This knowledge base is a prerequisite for effective planetary management.

The specific aim of GTOS is to improve the quality and coverage of terrestrial data, to integrate it into a worldwide base and to facilitate its access by scientists, policy makers and the public.

Since 1996, GTOS has been working to answer five key questions:

  1. What impact does land-use change and degradation have on sustainable development? Can the land produce enough food to support its future population, projected at 12 billion by 2050?

  2. When, where and by how much will demand for freshwater exceed supply?

  3. How does climate change affect terrestrial ecosystems?

  4. Will the loss of biological resources cause irreversible damage to ecosystems or human progress? Which resources are being lost, and where are they?

  5. Where and when will toxins cause major threats to human and environmental health and the capacity of ecosystems to detoxify them?
Analysing these questions requires a focus on building the infrastructure to fill gaps in measurements, assimilate data and generate the required products.

GTOS Structure

GTOS is organized in the following structure (additional details can be obtained by selecting the figure text).

Steering committee  |  Sponsors  |  Donors  |  Partners  |  Secretariat  | To the top of the page.

© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   15 January 2007