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1 Introduction

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization regularly reports on the world’s forest resources through the Forest Resources Assessment Programme (FRA), which is now actively facilitating the execution of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000)1. Along with the core information on the state and changes in forests, FRA 2000 will report on various ecological aspects of forests. In doing so, the assessment will provide new information on forests by ecological zones and contribute to understanding the implications of forest change on biological diversity, sustainable forest management, protection and carbon-cycling processes.

While the FRA 2000 EZ map is unique in its global character, a similar map was developed by FAO in 1990 for the ecological zoning of the tropics. The map was used to report forest state and change statistics by ecological zone and for stratification in deforestation modelling and the remote sensing survey. The EZ work for FRA 2000 is seen as a logical continuation and expansion of the tropical ecological zoning done for the previous assessment. Because of the limited geographic coverage and increased resolution, FRA 1990 was able to delineate detailed ecofloristic zones2, as well as at the more general ecological zones applicable at regional and global levels. To ensure compatibility of the 1990 EZ map with the 2000 global exercise, FAO in co-operation with the Laboratoire d’Ecologie Terrestre (LET) in France, has updated the tropical ecological zones, producing a fully compatible ecological zoning map for the tropics based on the 2000 criteria. At the same time, FAO and LET have also revised the more detailed ecofloristic zones for the tropics using new maps and information available since 1990.

1 Experts in forest resources from member countries, international and national organisations, NGO’s and individuals contributed to planning FRA 2000. During 1996, the international forestry community provided important recommendations to the planning of FRA 2000 through a number of meetings, culminating with the "Expert Consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000" held in Kotka, Finland during June 1996. This meeting, referred to as Kotka III, considered the reporting of forest information by Ecological Zones as a high priority and advised FAO to develop the ecological zoning map required for the task. Following Kotka III, in 1997, the Fourth Session of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF IV) expressed strong support for FRA 2000, the Kotka III recommendations and FAO’s role as facilitator for the execution of FRA 2000. In March 1997, FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO 1997) and FAO’s member countries endorsed Forest Resources Assessment as one of FAO Forestry’s highest priorities.

2 The term ecofloristic zone utilised by the FRA 1990 map identifies the most detailed ecological units where floristic composition played a major role in their identification and delineation. In contrast, the term Ecological Zone denotes the more generalised units for the 1990 map correlating well with climatic and physiography. As the global zoning is conducted at a more generalized level, the term Ecological Zone has been retained to describe the mapping units contained within the FRA 2000 global ecological map.

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