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GFOI and FCT advance GEO’s forest activities

Forests as carbon storageThe Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI) established by the GEO-VIII Plenary last November is building upon and continuing the activities of Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT), thus ensuring the close coordination of GEO’s forest-related activities. This coordination was further advanced during the week of 6-10 February when the 3rd GEO FCT Science and Data Summit (SDS) was held in Arusha, Tanzania, back-to-back with the 1st GEO GFOI Workshop: Interaction with countries. The two events were hosted and organized by the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) with support from the Government of Norway delivered through the Norwegian Space Centre.

The 3rd GEO FCT Science and Data Summit (SDS)

The GEO-FCT Science and Data Summits are organized annually. They constitute the key forum where technical and scientific issues related to national-scale forest monitoring and carbon tracking are discussed.

The focus of the 3rd SDS was to illustrate, through the various National Demonstrators, how GEO GFOI can support the development of national Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) systems. These systems address the REDD+ objectives of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and of forest conservation, sustainable forest management and the enhancement of carbon stocks. Several prototype “products,” including forest and forest-change mapping and initial carbon assessments, were produced with the support of dedicated product development teams (one per country).

The Research and Development Plan’s approach to supporting GFOI implementation was also presented, and a number of technical and scientific questions where thoroughly discussed in order to bring the development forward. Synergies between the GEO forest team and UN-REDD, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Forest Resource Assessments (FAO-FRA) were also discussed and further coordination planned.

The 1st GEO GFOI Workshop: Interaction with countries

The 1st GEO GFOI Workshop: Interaction with countries was the first step in the process for consulting with countries on how to move forward in assessing and quantifying their support needs for implementing their National Forest Monitoring Systems. This process will allow the GFOI team to properly plan this support in term of satellite and ground measurement data, relevant processing tools and methodologies, and associated needs in terms of training and capacity building.

The workshop allowed the sharing of lessons learned and discussions on how to put in place cooperation schemes among countries for the best use of these experiences in different national circumstances. It was also an occasion to present GEO’s work to five African countries that were not already involved in GEO activities on forest monitoring and carbon tracking.

Results and lessons learned

Almost 90 participants attended the meetings, representing institutions from about 25 countries, including 15 developing countries (of which eight in Africa).

The preliminary results, still to be analyzed in detail, show quite a different level of progress in the different National Demonstrator countries as regards their overall readiness for both REDD+ implementation and for advancing GEO forest activities. The full end-to-end process (from observations to carbon assessment) is covered in only a few countries, while for others intermediate products have been produced.

The countries that were new to the GEO forest initiative expressed very positive reactions, noting that it was very relevant to addressing their needs and also covering “unique” aspects not specifically addressed by other international support actions. Looking forward, very valuable inputs were acquired to plan the continuation of the demonstration and R&D activities and to finalize the approach to operationalising them.

Next steps for the GEO forest teams

Taking into consideration the lessons learned from these events, the GEO forest team will advance its activities for supporting the development of national forest monitoring system. The main priorities of these actions are:

  • Strengthening or establishing relationships with international organizations (capacity building/donors)
  • Continue working on data acquisition with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), commercial data providers, and data processing providers
  • Continue working with the National Demonstrator countries
  • Develop a science and technology/research and development (S&T/R&D) plan
  • Produce guidance document(s) concerning the acquisition of data, their use and integration, the development of forest information products and carbon assessments, and complying with IPCC ‘Good-Practice Guidance for Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry’ as well as with the IPCC ‘Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories’
  • Produce a National Demonstrators brochure that will illustrate what progress has been made so far in each National Demonstrator
  • Prepare a communications plan and develop a “knowledge” platform