Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted September 1999

User requirements study

Remote sensing-based spatial information for sustainable management of forests

Reported by Jelle U. Hielkema, Senior Remote Sensing Officer, FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN)

The Government of the Netherlands, in cooperation with FAO's Forest Resources Division and the FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service, has recently completed a User requirements study (URS) on remote sensing-based spatial information for sustainable management of forests. The URS study originated from problems observed in relation to information availability for decision-making purposes in sustainable forest management as a result of experiences gained in national and international programmes and processes over the past decades worldwide.

A solution to the problems observed in the supply of information was suggested through the FAME (Forest Assessment and Monitoring Environment) concept, comprising an end-to-end forest assessment and monitoring system, including dedicated data acquisition, processing and distribution directly to forest managers and related institutions. This is an integrated system, with functions for image data input, transmission, acquisition, processing, modeling and archiving, including the education and training and institutional capacity building required for these purposes. The FAME concept was developed by a number of technical institutes in the Netherlands and was positively received by, among others, the FAO Forestry Department and Sustainable Development Department and by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE) from Brazil, both expressing keen interest to collaborate with the Netherlands on the further development of the FAME concept.

The study addressed the following issues:

  1. Assessment of requirements for spatial information in order to support sustainable forest management;
  2. Preliminary evaluation of the extent to which these requirements for spatial information can be met by existing and planned remote sensing systems;
  3. Identification of the requirements for, and components of, an improved information supply mechanism in the form of an "end-to-end" information system.

Three Ministries of the Government of the Netherlands have sponsored the study: the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Directorate General for Development Cooperation - DGIS) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries.

The study was carried out by the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC) of Enschede, the Netherlands, in cooperation with:

Towards the end of the study, an international workshop on the preliminary results of the URS was held at ITC from 23-25 November 1998 with participants from 20 countries, 20 government organizations, 6 international NGOs, 5 international organizations, 5 universities, 5 private sector entities, and 4 NGOs. The participants represented a wide range of data users from local to global levels and workshop discussions focussed on three areas: data and information needs, constraints in obtaining data, and information and options for improving data and information supply.

The study results have been incorporated in the "User Requirements Study - Final Report". This Final Report is based on the detailed study results contained in eight technical documents as follows:

  1. International user identification and platform creation
  2. Design of the user needs assessment study
  3. Forest functions, management principles and information requirements
  4. User needs assessment for spatial forest information; results and analysis
  5. Spatial data requirements in sustainable forest management; A study in four tropical countries
  6. Remote sensing applications for forest management
  7. User requirements versus existing capabilities ITC/W. Bijker]
  8. Proceedings of the international workshop on the preliminary results of the user requirements study

    These documents are available at the Web site of the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (

    FAO participated in this study with four country studies in Brazil, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Nepal, as a cooperative activity between the Forest Resources Division of the Forestry Department and the Environment and Natural Resources Service of the Sustainable Development Department. A follow-up to this study, aiming at the formulation of a programme for the ''Establishment of the use of Spatial Data in Forest and Forest Lands and Monitoring Environment (FLAME) '' is currently under negotiation between FAO and the Governmment of The Netherlands.

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