Land Theme Report
Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOL) Report n. 8


For the Monitoring of our Environment from Space and Earth

An IGOS-P Theme

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Rome, 2008


The Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) is a strategic planning process initiated by a partnership of international organizations that are concerned with the observational component of global environmental change issues. It links research, long-term monitoring and operational programmes, bringing together the producers of global observations and the users that require them to identify products needed, gaps in observations, and mechanisms to respond to the needs of the science and policy communities. Its principal objectives are to address how well user requirements are being satisfied by the existing observation systems, and how they could be met more effectively in the future through better integration and optimization of satellite, airborne and in situ observation systems.

The IGOS Land Theme was initially proposed in November 2003 on the recognition that IGOS-P had not yet considered many observational needs relating to many aspects of the land, such as sustainable economic development, natural resources management, conservation and biodiversity.

This report outlines the observational requirements for a large range of uses including agriculture, forestry, land degradation, ecosystem goods and services, biodiversity and conservation, human health, water resource management, disasters, energy, urbanization and sustainable human settlement (section 2). Important aspects of land observations, such as those relating to climate change, have appeared in other IGOS-P reports and these are not duplicated in this report.

To satisfy these needs there is considerable overlap in the types of observations needed by different users (section 3) and hence assessment of the needs for enhanced observations is discussed under types of observations (section 4).

Recommendations are limited to observations that are needed at a global scale or observations needed locally that benefit from global-scale observations, that have been articulated by the IGOS Partners, that are spatially explicit disaggregated data products rather than country or sub-country units and where there is a realistic chance of any recommendations being implemented within the next 10 years.

Section 4 shows that significant effort will be needed both to maintain current remote sensing capabilities and to provide many needed enhancements to meet user requirements. Some capabilities in the immediate future will likely be inferior to current ones. Land cover products are recognized as having a central role for all applications. Enhancement of several global socio-economic data sets is urgently needed. Many crucial products remain inadequate because of their reliance on inadequate in situ observations. Improved integration of in situ and remote sensing observations would be of great benefit, notably for agricultural and forestry applications.

A significance of a series of integrative issues, including validation and quality assessment data fusion for analysis and modeling and data assimilation, are highlighted (section 5). The need to improve the delivery of data and information products is highlighted in section 6: one of the most important barriers to overcome is restrictive data policies. The vital needs for capacity building are discussed in section 7.

In sections 8 and 9 the relation of the recommendations to other IGOS-P reports and to the burgeoning Global Earth Observing System of Systems are outlined. The latter will be crucial for success in the implementation of IGOL. Many of IGOL’s recommendations are already being tackled by GEO. Finally in chapter 10 a summary of recommendations is provided.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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Citation of this report should use the following:
Townshend, J.R., Latham, J., Arino, O., Balstad, R., Belward, A., Conant, R., Elvidge, C., Feuquay, J., El Hadani, D., Herold, M., Janetos, A., Justice, C.O., Liu Jiyuan, Loveland, T., Nachtergaele, F., Ojima, D., Maiden, M., Palazzo, F., Schmullius, C., Sessa, R., Singh, A., Tschirley, J. and Yamamoto, H. 2008. Integrated Global Observations of the Land: an IGOS-P Theme. IGOL Report No. 8, GTOS 54.

Photographs supplied by John Townshend. They may be reproduced without permission for non-commercial purposes.

© FAO 2008