Assessing forest resources on a global scale forms part of the mandate of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). Article 1 of the Act of constitution stipulates that “the Organisation collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate all information regarding nutrition, food and agriculture (including forests and fishing)”. The first survey on world forest resources was carried out in 1946 and the last one had the reference date of 1980.
During the last survey the assessment of forest resources in North Africa and the Near East was produced by H. Marchand in 1985–86, on the basis of information collected at FAO headquarters and at the national institutions concerned. The results of that study became the subject of national reports for the five countries of North Africa and two regional summary documents for the Near East and North Africa. In addition, these documents were assimilated and included in “Interim report on the state of forest resources in the developing countries” (FO:Misc/88/7, Rome, 1988).
The current global forest resources assessment project for the reference year 1990 completed the assessment of tropical countries in October 1993. The results were published in No112 of the “Forests” series of FAO studies. The assessment, which covers 90 countries, was completed in two phases: statistical information on forest cover area, growing stock, management, conservation and utilisation of forests was first compiled and incorporated into a database (FORIS - Forest Resources Information System). The spatial information on vegetation cover, ecological zones and administrative boundaries at sub-national level was scanned, edited and integrated with the statistical data in the form of a geographical information system. The collected data were used to devise a deforestation model, to estimate forest cover area at the end of 1990 and rates of change in the period 1981–90. To this was added interpretation on a global scale sampling exercise of 117 pairs of high resolution satellite images, the two images from each pair covering the same zone at two different dates. These data were analysed to obtain in-depth knowledge of the process of deforestation and forest degradation on the sample locations by geographical sub-region and ecological zone.
The forest resources assessment for industrialised countries was produced by the Joint ECE/FAO Agriculture and Timber Division, Geneva, based on a questionnaire survey. The assessment ended in March 1993 and the findings were published in a two-volume report in the collection of United Nations publications (ECE/TIM/62).
The tasks which remained to be done at the beginning of 1994 to complete the global panorama were: (i) the forest resources assessment for non-tropical developing countries and (ii) the global synthesis.
This report covers non-tropical developing countries from the Mediterranean basin, apart from Cyprus, Israel and Turkey which had already been covered in the forest resources assessment for industrialised countries. The 18 countries covered by this study are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The assessment methodology developed especially for tropical countries was tested on Mediterranean countries; however it proved difficult to apply on account of the state of information and forest resource dynamics in these countries. In fact, statistical information on forest resources in Mediterranean countries was poor and unreliable. Only three out of the eighteen in the region had carried out a national forest inventory at the time of the study: Algeria in 1984, Jordan and Libya in 1965. Therefore the available information essentially came from official statistics or experts' estimates the reliability of which is difficult to estimate.
The development objectives for the 1990 global forest resources assessment project, of which this study forms a part, are as follows:
assist member countries and the world community in reviewing policies, promoting cooperation and taking appropriate action for conservation, development and forest resources management;
finance regional and international studies requiring country forest resource information presented in a common format;
develop national capabilities for periodic assessment and monitoring of forest resources.
The immediate objectives of this part of the project are to:
undertake an assessment of forest resources in the developing countries of North Africa and the Near East for the reference year 1990, and estimate the changes that have taken place between 1981 and 1990;
disseminate the database and methodology of assessment to the national and international institutions.
The results of the project will provide the countries concerned and the international community as a whole with up-to-date information on the current state and changes in forest resources. This information will enable each country to place itself within its sub-regional, regional and inter-regional context and to prepare appropriate measures for the development and conservation of forest resources.
The assessment of the forest resources of developing countries in the Mediterranean zone began in September 1992. It was carried out under the supervision of the Forest Resources Division of the FAO Forestry Department.
The French Government contributed US$100,000 towards the assessment of forest resources in the developing countries of North Africa and the Near East, as well as towards the preparation of the global synthesis.
In October 1992 a Letter of Accord was signed with the French National Forest Inventory (IFN) to carry out the preliminary phase of the study. The aim was to adapt to the countries concerned the methodology used for tropical countries. This methodology is based largely on a dynamic model which compares the degree of forest cover and population density over the different bioclimatic zones. The study consisted of a bibliographical investigation of forest resources data (area, volume, etc…) and deforestation and forest degradation factors (human population, livestock, forest fires, fuel-wood) for the countries concerned, as well as a feasibility study of a model monitoring the degree of forest cover.
In December 1992, a presentation letter of the study was sent to the countries of North Africa and the Near East. Simultaneously, at FAO headquarters a review was conducted of available information on the forest resources of the same countries. A mission first visited Turkey, then Iran in December 1992, to collect the information necessary to be able to fill in the tables from the FORIS questionnaire - the information system used by FAO for the other countries in the world - and to test the feasibility of a dynamic model in certain countries in the region. The mission established that the two countries were a long way from having the necessary statistics available to fill in the tables in the FORIS questionnaire and that, in the absence of multi-date inventory information and the same nomenclatures, it seems difficult to think in terms of a modelling exercise.
Following the mission, a set of shortened and adapted tables, originating from the FORIS questionnaire, was sent to the North African and Near Eastern countries in March 1993 to be checked and validated.
In May 1993, a second Letter of Accord was signed with the French National Forestry Inventory for collecting information pertinent to the assessment of forest resources in the countries of North Africa and the Near East, in line with the methods defined at the preliminary phase. This new phase also included a bibliographical investigation and data analysis complementary to that carried out by FAO, a mission to three countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) to validate data, and the model which had been earlier tested at the preliminary phase. Nevertheless, the absence of multi-date information did not allow a modelling exercise to be performed.
By August 1993, only Lebanon and Yemen had replied to the questionnaire which had been sent in March. Another set of already-completed tables was sent to the same countries to be checked and validated. In December 1993, the IFN completed its study on the state and development of forest cover in the countries visited. Between January and May 1994, the validated data were standardised and brought to the same reference year (1990) with the aid of an adjustment function created at sub-regional level, while the region's potential forest areas were calculated on the basis of vegetation maps.