Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted November 1997

FAO activities: Forestry and Fisheries Applications

Overview | Environmental monitoring | Agriculture | Forestry and fisheries | Projects, training, publications | Cooperation

Forestry remote sensing applications are primarily in mapping for purposes of land use planning, forest management and forest utilization planning. Applications in forest protection do also occur, e.g., in cases of insect diseases. The mapping may result in base maps in which forest/non-forest is distinguished and in which district boundaries as well as basic infrastructure are shown. In other cases the mapping may imply a more or less detailed classification of forest stands, and such classification may be used in a multi-phase sampling where subsamples of stands are selected for further examination.

Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 1990)

One of the two components of the FAO Forest Resources Assessment 1990 was a multi-temporal analysis (1980-1990) of about 120 sample locations of the size of a Landsat scene in the tropical zone. This component has been finalized during 1994. The results allow most interesting analyses of the pattern of land cover changes by region and by ecological zone. A special report was published in 1995. A summary of findings was presented in the Global Synthesis report of the Forest Resources Assessment 1990, published in 1995. A global forest resources assessment for the year 2000, which will extend the remote sensing and GIS approach from the sampling of the tropical belt to global sampling, is under preparation.


The "Remote Sensing Processing and Archiving System" (RESPAS) is a project in preparation. It will produce geometrically corrected remote sensing data, optimized for forestry applications, to serve national and sub-national Forestry Departments and the National TFAP (Tropical Forests Action Programme) units to establish and/or strengthen the capacity of developing countries to assess and monitor their forest resources. It could be further developed to be integrated with GIS and other data bases, such as FORIS (Forest Resources Information System) and with simulation and modelling capabilities to assist in planning and the definition of forestry policies within FAO. The Forest Resources Assessment Programme (FRA), the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) Coordination Unit and the Field Programme of FAO would be the main users.

In 1993, a study to investigate the end-user needs for RESPAS-data was completed and was discussed with international experts during a meeting with international experts in Kotka, Finland in May 1993. A follow-up study on the refinement of user requirements and the technical configuration of RESPAS is in progress.

The development of RESPAS, to be funded by the Dutch Government, will be initiated with the cooperation of selected pilot countries and specialized technical institutions from the Netherlands. A pilot project in Ecuador is now in the final stage of preparation to be followed by similar pilot projects in South-east Asia and Africa.

FAO/ESA Radar Study

The cooperation between FAO and ESA to develop the application of SAR data, in particular ERS-1 data has continued. Pilot projects were carried out in and in cooperation with Eastern European countries. Results were presented during a training course: "Use of ERS-1 SAR data for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment Applications in Central-Eastern Europe", held at ESRIN, Frascati, from 8-12 November 1993. Lecture notes on the principles of RADAR systems and applications were published in 1995 by ESA. A pilot study for the use of ERS-1 data in Africa, in the framework of AFRICOVER, was successfully undertaken in 1995, the results of which were published in mid-1996.

Forest map and statistical data for Albania

On request of the World Bank, a forest and land cover map and digital database of Albania based on the interpretation of a multitemporal set of satellite remote sensing data has been completed and is now ready for printing. Statistical data on forest and land cover will be included.

Assistance to field projects


Satellite remote sensing, in particular when combined with GIS, is increasingly used in marine and inland fisheries projects. Remote sensing activities are mainly conducted in the Fisheries Department of FAO.

FAO is developing a Geographic Information System for the world ocean fisheries, resources and environment. The need to acquire reliable and updated spatially referenced data on physical and human resources related to marine fisheries is increasing. Remote sensing derived information represents an important source of data at regional, national and local levels.

Coastal zones play a significant role in the economic development of many developing countries. However, increasing population and economic development in many countries make heavy and often conflicting demands on coastal resources. To reduce the problems, an integrated coastal zone management, aiming for sustainable use of coastal resources, is being promoted by FAO. Remote sensing is important for baseline inventory and monitoring of coastal zones.

A pilot project for the use of NOAA and ERS-1 data for eastern and southern Africa on identification of wetland areas for aquaculture was successfully undertaken in 1995 together with ESA.

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