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Countdown to the 2020 global and European forest assessments

Published: 07 March 2018

Forests are fundamental to sustainable development, from their role as carbon sinks and the vital ecosystem services they perform, to the many wood-based products and renewable energy they provide. Monitoring the status of forests to ensure their sustainable management is therefore essential if these benefits for the environment and for societies are to be maintained for future generations.

The FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) is the main source of information on the state of the forests globally. It contains information on the forest area, forest characteristics, forest productive functions, biodiversity, health conditions of forest ecosystems, ownership of forests, forest related livelihoods and other economic and social indicators showing progress in Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).

The process for data collection for the FRA was launched this week in Toluca, Mexico, in the presence of FRA National Correspondents and international experts from all over the world.

Since the start of the reporting process 70 years ago, UNECE, together with FAO, has supported the collection, validation and analysis of information about countries in the temperate and boreal region.

The FRA 2020 assessment will be based on two primary sources of data: country reports prepared by national correspondents who are nominated by countries and data gathered through remote sensing. The process is carried out in collaboration with the main forest related organizations, convention and processes, notably with the Collaborative Forest Resources Questionnaire, which gathers the Central African Forests Commission, the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization, FOREST EUROPE, the International Tropical Timber Organization, the Montréal Process and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

For the first time, the global reporting will be carried out in coordination with the pan-European reporting on SFM, as a joint effort of countries in the region supported by the UNECE, FAO and FOREST EUROPE.

This will be facilitated by the use of two main questionnaires on quantitative and qualitative indicators. The Joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section and the FOREST EUROPE Liaison Unit Bratislava will coordinate and support the national data collection process, in cooperation with the FAO FRA secretariat.

The data collected through this process will serve as reference information on European forests and forest management; it will also contribute to the preparation of the report State of Europe’s Forests (SoEF). The report, which is produced for the Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe, covers all major aspects of sustainable forest management, according to the pan-European Criteria and Indicators for SFM. The release of the next edition of the report is expected in 2020, at the Ministerial Conference to be held in Slovakia.

Joining and synchronizing the reporting processes and the related review, analysis and dissemination of data has many benefits, as it will increase consistency, reduce the reporting burden for countries and improve quality and transparency of data. Thanks to this cooperation, information on forests and forest management in Europe will be highlighted in the global report. Finally, joint reporting will highlight forest related information, which are relevant also for other reporting processes and the achievement of international policy commitments, including the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Results of the reporting on FRA 2015 can be found at http://www.fao.org/forest-resources-assessment/en/. Data and outputs from the pan-European reporting (2015) is available at http://foresteurope.org/state-europes-forests-2015-report/ (State of Europe’s Forests 2015) and http://w3.unece.org/PXWeb/en  (interactive database).

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