Tropical forest monitoring capacities improve with international support from the GFOI community

11 May 2021

Forest monitoring capacities have improved in the tropical countries that received international support in the last 10 years.

This is one of the key findings of the first global study on forest monitoring capacities conducted by the GFOI partners. The study was led by the University of Wageningen and developed in close cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The study shows that substantial improvements in national forest monitoring capacities are occurring globally. For reporting to the FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2020, about 85 percent of the global forest cover is monitored using good to very good remote sensing (RS) technologies or national forest inventories (NFI). The proportion of global forest cover monitored with good to very good use of RS increased from 69 percent (2848 million ha) in FRA 2005 to 84 percent (3406 million ha) in FRA 2020. The corresponding figure for use of NFI increased from 55 percent (2280 million ha) in FRA 2005 to 85 percent (3462 million ha) in FRA 2020. Moreover, the highest quality monitoring data were used for reporting forest area status covering 93 percent of global forest areas.

This is great news for GFOI’s partners who have been working with tropical countries to bolster their capacities in forest monitoring for several years now. In the last ten year GFOI partners provided extensive support to countries’ efforts to develop national forest monitoring systems (NFMS), explains Julian Fox, Team Leader of National Forest Monitoring at FAO, in a recent podcast highlighting  the study. The more successful systems are already being used to inform management and policy decisions, and are designed to answer to international reporting needs.

Researchers assessed forest monitoring data sources using the metadata reported for the 236 countries and territories  in FAO’s latest FRA. They also correlated these data with the GFOI’s Inventory of Activities (IoA)[1] database to understand how targeted international support has helped improve countries’ forest monitoring capacities over time. Launched last year, the IoA portal shares information on the forest monitoring support being delivered by GFOI’s international partners to tropical countries.

Among 99 Non-Annex 1 tropical countries analysed, 49 had received targeted support to improve their remote sensing (RS) and/or national forest inventories (NFI). As countries started to receive support through GFOI collaborative actions in the 2010s, capacity changes were analysed over the period from 2010 to 2020.


Capacity improvements in the tropics and international support: key findings

Key findings from the analysis at tropical level include:

  • More than 50 percent of the countries with targeted support for both RS and NFI improved their capacities over the period and highlight the positive effect of dedicated GFOI-coordinated capacity development on FRA reporting capabilities and the quality of underlying data
  • In contrast, some 45 percent of the countries without international support showed no capacity improvements both for RS and NFI.
  • Still, 40 percent of the countries without international support improved their RS capacities, and 34 percent improved NFI capacities; emphasizing that countries are making important progress using their own resources
  • Some countries that had received support did not improve their RS or NFI capacities. The study concluded that one of the probable reasons for that was the lack of sufficient time for operationalization between the support and FRA reporting.

These findings suggest that widespread capacity improvements in tropical countries can be linked to the capacity development investments made by the international community, especially in the context of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (REDD+).

The study also shows a link between improvements in national capacities and improved governance in tropical countries, explored by using the World Bank governance indicator.

Nevertheless, the analysis also tells us that further efforts are needed to produce consistent and frequently updated time-series information on forests. As Anssi Pekkarinen, Team Leader of FRA, FAO, noted, “Knowing the status of forest resources is important, but knowing how the status changes is even more important”.

We encourage you to read this interesting paper to discover more finding and insights.



The percentage of total forest cover monitored by data source indicator value for use of RS for forest area monitoring
(a), and use of NFI for forest monitoring (b) in 236 countries and territories from FRA 2005 to FRA 2020.


Related links

[1] GFOI 2020. Inventory of Activities ( Retrieved May 25, 2020.