National Forest Monitoring

FAO at the front line of monitoring forests and ecosystems

FAO has supported more than 50 countries in their development of robust National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS), with the goal of developing reliable forest resource information for creating national forest policies, planning, and sustainable development, based on the affirmation that better data leads to better decisions. Forest monitoring systems include measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) functions and aim to produce high-quality, reliable data on forests, including forest-carbon estimates, that are critical in the battle against climate change. 

NFMS components include: 

  • Satellite land monitoring systems (SLMS) and other means of data collection, providing information for activity data (AD)
  • National forest inventories (NFI) and other means of data collection, providing information on emission factors (EF)

 Strengthening National Forest Monitoring Systems for REDD+

Global forest cover loss is addressed under a range of international agreements and conventions, including the UNFCCC, which has specific provisions for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries).

In the context of REDD+, an NFMS is a system for recording and monitoring how land is used in a country, and for estimating levels of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and removals related to forests.

An NFMS is one of the four elements that countries are required to develop in order to participate in REDD+ under the UNFCCC. By combining information about how land use patterns are changing, for example, deforestation or reforestation, and with information from a national forest inventory, countries can make estimates about overall GHG emissions and removals in the forest sector.

FAO also assists countries in participating in results-based payments for REDD+ by supporting their efforts to construct the systems and establish the capacity that are necessary for REDD+ MRV. 

Beyond REDD+: New applications of NFMS and remote sensing tools

NFMS for refugees

National Forest Monitoring Systems are increasingly used to collect data to identify and address national priorities, including migration and the use of natural resources surrounding the camps of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). A recent example of the multipurpose nature of NFM is the contribution to the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative, which is supporting dozens of countries in making and monitoring policies to better address energy needs and build resilience during emergencies.

NFMS for wildfire management

Remote Sensing technology helps countries monitor fire and its frequency. These steps allow the country to review and analyse fire sources, agents, and motivations - all crucial for identifying risk reduction activities. In addition, RS supports the assessment of the fuel load available for fires as well as mapping vulnerability. The collected information provides an important part of the basis for integrated fire management activities involving various government agencies and different administrative levels including, fundamentally, local communities.

Agriculture crop monitoring

National Forest Monitoring Systems can be used beyond forests to monitor the wider AFOLU sector (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use) to gain an understanding of forests within the landscape, of drivers of deforestation such as agriculture, as well as an understanding of trends within agriculture itself. Remote sensing tools such as SEPAL are being used to monitor plantation forests and crops around the world.