FAO Headquarters and Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare, Florence
1 year and 2 months from May 2004 to June 2005
US$1 173 710
The most fundamental constraint to progress in the understanding and prediction of human impacts on terrestrial ecosystems lies in the lack of a comprehensive theory of human-environment relationships. Land cover/change and land-use monitoring at local to regional level and the associated research is embedded within human-environment relationships. To date, these relationships have proven difficult to assess and to monitor on a consistent basis.
The project is designed to improve the understanding and projections of land-cover and land-cover change, through the creation of a Land Cover Topic Centre in FAO headquarters and in the Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare (IAO) in Florence, which will support and guide the normative programme of FAO and of the United Nations Environment Programme in dealing with land cover issues from the local to the global level. The project will include an outreach programme through regional networks and training and awareness workshops and conferences.
Land cover change is one of the most important indicators of both, positive and negative impacts of development practices and is central to the interests of both the planning and research community and materially supports the science of global environmental change. It is a significant agent of change which influences, and is affected by, climate change, loss of biodiversity, and the sustainability of human-environment interactions. Land-cover change is a significant cause, or forcing function, of global change, and the medium through which many human responses to global change will occur. It is clearly an essential component in all considerations of sustainability. Technology for land cover mapping and change monitoring has been developed and operationally tested over nearly 10 million km2, in the framework of FAO Africover East Africa module, project GCP/RAF/287/ITA, which was financed by the Government of Italy, for a total contribution of about US$10 million. Project GCP/RAF/287/ITA carried out activities between 1995 and May 2004.
Satellite remote sensing enables continuous land cover monitoring whilst geographical information system provides a capacity for predicting trends in land cover changes. What is now needed is to translate these advanced geo-information capacities, combined with the extensive experience obtained by FAO during the implementation of the Africover East Africa module, project GCP/RAF/287/ITA, into a global land cover network.
The ultimate and broad objective of project GCP/INT/934/ITA funded by the Government of Italy, for a total amount of US$1173710, is to facilitate the multi-scale decision making by developing countries in sustainable resource management, environmental protection and food security. Direct objectives are: (i) the harmonization of land cover mapping and monitoring projects based on the land cover classification system (LCCS), at regional and global level; (ii) the facilitation of information exchange at global, regional and national level; and (iii) the development of baseline datasets and their dissemination in developing countries within regional modules and selected national prototypes. An important training component is also envisaged.
The project started in May 2004 with the establishment of topic centres in the FAO Headquarters in Rome, in the Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare (IAO), in Florence and in the Liason office for Africa, in Nairobi and with the recruitment of necessary staff. To respond to the first and to the second objectives the project began to build a structured global network of institutions, organizations, countries, NGOs and private sector. This network, partially established in Africa and in Asia, by the previous projects Africover and Asiacover, has already been expanded to West and Southern Africa, South America, Central Asia and the Middle East. Additional networks will be developed in Central America and Central Asia. Furthermore, national networks are also being developed (e.g. China, India, Uruguay, etc.) to coordinate and implement mapping activities. Memoranda of understanding have been signed for the implementation of GLCN with the United Nations Environment Programme, IAO and with regional and national institutions (e.g. National Remote Sensing Agency, India and University of Southampton, UK). Harmonization concepts and GLCN methodology have been distributed through the regional networks and are either being advocated for evaluation (compared to national existing systems), or operationally integrated into national and regional programmes. Moreover, existing mapping data and information is being converted to GLCN and international standards, for insertion into the global database.
Adopted by GLCN, Land Cover Classification System is based on independent and universally valid land cover diagnostic criteria. Its output is a comprehensive land cover characterization, regardless of mapping scale, land cover type, data collection method or geographic location. In this respect, the project has submitted LCCS for approval to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to become an international standard. Once approved, LCCS could be adopted by further countries and institutions, contributing to the harmonization’s objective of the project. An LCCS distance learning package is being developed for users of the software. The package is intended to allow users to easily understand the basic concepts of the classification system and the functionalities of the related software. Once reviewed and finalized, the software will be distributed through a CD-ROM. At present, LCCS is adopted by a wide variety of end-users throughout the world.
In relation to the third objective, the project has assisted the pilot countries in developing GLCN compliant initiatives at a regional level driven from the pilot country applications, and has provided training in the use of the available tools. Reinforcing national and regional capacities for the establishment and use of land cover maps and spatial databases is the core strategy for the project and training has been organized at various technical levels, including on-the-job training of the local experts in photo and image interpretation, a one-month intensive training in the use of GLCN land cover mapping tools as well as database management and updating and data dissemination. Following these training sessions, activity awareness workshops were held to introduce the national database to potential users within each country. During these workshops, held between June 2004 and March 2005, over 300 people from 75 countries have been trained in GLCN methodologies.
The project has developed two websites, which provide access to background and detailed information about the various components of the GLCN programme, The website includes also current and future mapping activities and expected results, data, products, applications and useful resources for users.