While the total forest area in the developed world appears to be rather stable as a whole or even to increase slightly, the situation is fundamentally different in most of the developing regions. The population of these latter grew by about 2 billions, from 2 to 4 billions, during 1960-1990. It is expected to grow further by about 3 billions, from 4 to 7 billions, during 1990 to 2020. As a result, the risk of deforestation in the developing countries remains very high.
The current institutional capacity in most of the developing countries is not adequate to meet the present and future information needs of forestry and land use planning. The survey results indicates that in many countries even basic data related to the area and type of forests, their existing potential and volume of harvest, etc. are inadequate, if not largely lacking. The role of information, technology and knowledge transfer is going to be very crucial to steer the future land use changes with a minimum of economic, social and environmental costs.
The studies related to global environmental change, including global warming. deforestation and loss of biological diversity, require statistically reliable information that is consistent worldwide and over time and sufficiently adequate in detail to provide an accurate account of the complex man-forest interactions. However, the quality and quantity of available data vary considerably between countries and there are many gaps in the information supplied. As a result, the essential needs of researchers and policy makers cannot be met satisfactorily. In particular, information related to change in forest area is too generalized, incomplete and often unreliable. Therefore, there is an urgent need to establish globally accepted standards, foster national commitment and promote international cooperation in order to improve on the quality and timeliness of information gathered.
The pan-tropical sample survey demonstrates that forest and land use change information can be produced on a global basis in a cost-effective, timely and statistically sound manner. The detailed land cover classification and inter-dependent image interpretation approach provide consistent information on the change process and, thus, valuable insight on nature of man-land interactions. If applied on world-wide basis and continued over time, such surveys would lend factual support to global environmental research and policy making through detailed description of the processes of change and the quantification of essential parameters on a reliable basis. The approach, as may be obvious, is not intended to replace national statistics but only to provide regional and global estimates of state and change on a comparable basis over space and time.
Finally, there is need for recognition by governments and the responsible agencies that a prerequisite for effective follow-up in the field of forestry to UNCED and other high-level meetings, such as the Committee on Forestry, Ministerial Conferences for the Protection of Forests in Europe, etc. is the provision of reliable and comprehensive information on the forest resource needed for policy-making; and that such information will only become available if inventory and assessment activities are adequately funded and supported politically. With few exceptions, this is not the case at present at the national level; it is manifestly not at the international level.