National Forest Monitoring

Innovative tools – Open Foris and SEPAL

Innovative open-source tools help countries measure, monitor and report on forests and land cover and use, paving the way for improved climate change mitigation plans and informed land-use policies.

Accurate information is crucial for governments to manage their natural resources sustainably. In collaboration with over 70 countries and partners, FAO has developed a suite of innovative forest and land monitoring tools, conceived to meet the urgent need for (national and local) systems that enable accurate yet cost-effective measurement, monitoring, and reporting of forest and other land cover. By facilitating flexible and efficient data collection, analysis, and reporting, the FAO Open Foris tools fast-track the development of operational National Forest Monitoring Systems, and at the same time develop the capacities to sustain and utilize these systems to respond to national needs.

With over 30,000 installations, Open Foris has catalyzed significant progress in forest monitoring around the globe – by lowering costs, removing barriers, and improving forest monitoring for national governments, research institutes, companies and many other users. Open Foris tools are being used not only for forest monitoring but also for monitoring of agricultural and pastoral systems.

  • Collect and Collect Mobile have been the platforms used by many countries to provide the technical framework of the data collection and management for their National Forest Inventory work, while Calc has been used to provide an easy way to execute the complex calculations that this huge amount of data involves.
  • Arena is a new Open Foris cloud platform for forest inventory data collection, exploitation, analysis, dissemination, and reporting. It combines two current tools: Collect and Calc into a seamless new application. Arena is developed and maintained by the FAO Forestry Division. Arena will also work as the back-end database for hosting Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) data. (The launch of Arena Version 1.0 is foreseen for July 2021)
  • SEPAL provides ‘big-data’ processing services, enabling accurate, efficient, and cost-effective monitoring and reporting of forest and land cover. The platform provides anyone, anywhere with unparalleled access to satellite data (via Google’s Earth Engine and other sources) and supercomputing power right from their desktop or mobile phone. SEPAL allows users to process and analyse huge datasets to detect and monitor changes in land use and land cover. This platform is being used to monitor forests for deforestation, degradation, fires and other purposes, as well as to monitor peatlands, agricultural land and other land uses. Developed in collaboration with the World Bank, NASA and with financial support from the governments of Finland and Norway, SEPAL has over 6,000 users from 185 countries across the globe.
  • Collect Earth, a tool to facilitate augmented visual interpretation, has been used by a multitude of institutions to produce data for their reporting to the UNFCCC, both on the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and for their Forest Reference Emission Level reports. This tool has been instrumental in FAO’s Global Drylands Assessment and the monitoring of Africa’s Great Green Wall.
  • Developed in collaboration with NASA’s SERVIR program, Collect Earth Online provides a crowd-sourcing functionality that can change how we collect data, and engages scientists and citizens, promoting collaboration.

SEPAL, Collect Earth and all Open Foris tools are fully integrated. Data and analyses carried out with one tool can be swapped across to the others, maximising utility. These open-source solutions enhance the transparency and accuracy of forest and land cover information, fundamental to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

National forest monitoring system assessment tool

A lack of institutional and individual capacity often undermines the long-term impact of otherwise technically sound programmes. To support efforts towards sound and impactful forest monitoring, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has developed an NFMS assessment tool to help countries identify capacity gaps and weaknesses in order to address their real needs in a targeted manner. FAO’s new tool facilitates the identification of needs and gaps in order to establish or strengthen a country’s forest monitoring.

National forest monitoring system assessment tool: Quick guidance