New guidelines aim to help countries develop strong National Forest Monitoring Systems, which are key to measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), were published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in August 2017.
To fulfil their pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement and Agenda 2030 ,countries are expected to collect more detailed forestry data.
This not only includes information on the size and growth or decline of their forests, but also key aspects of sustainable forest management, such as the role of forests in the conservation of biodiversity, reducing impacts of climate change and provision of other ecosystem services.
In addition, forest information on socio-economic aspects including the contribution of forests to livelihoods and poverty reduction, have become critical for national planning.
The Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring aim to support countries in collecting, compiling and analysing data on forest resources to enable them to adopt evidence-based policies and practices, which will help them to achieve sustainable management of forest resources in line with the SDGs.
Forests are complex systems, and their monitoring draws upon a variety of data and information sources. It is common for forest inventories to collect data on more than 100 variables.
In 2010, only 45 countries world-wide were able to assess changes in forest area and characteristics through consecutive systematic national forest inventories, suggesting a serious gap in information. Moreover, it is likely that the data collected is incomplete.
The guidelines aim to fill this gap by offering principles and methodology on how to collect more and better data on trends and outlook in the forestry sector and on related issues such as the demand for food, energy and wood fibre as well as employment and rural development topics.
This information will also help policy-makers boost the contribution of forests to sustainable energy and food security.