The world¿s forests provide vital economic, social and environmental benefits. ... Since 1946, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provides detailed information on the world¿s forests, their extent, their condition and uses at 5 to 10 year intervals. For the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA 2010), a systematic, comprehensive, global survey of forests based on remote sensing imagery is being undertaken.
The FRA 2010 Remote Sensing Survey (RSS) uses satellite remote sensing of the Earth¿s surface to improve information on worldwide tree cover and forest land use. The main goal is to obtain systematic information on the distribution and changes in forest cover and forest land use from 1990 to 2000 and 2005 at regional, ecozone and global levels.
The GLS is a spatially consistent, multi-date dataset composed of the single best Landsat image acquisition covering the Earth¿s land surface. A systematic sampling design based on each longitude and latitude intersection has been implemented (13 689 sites). Each sample tile covers a 10 by 10 kilometre square for which various Landsat optical bands of the GLS acquisitions were compiled, for the three dates (56 219 individual imagery chips).
The image processing includes segmentation of the images into polygons based on similar satellite image characteristics and labeling these following a simplified form of the FAO land cover and land use classifications. Polygons, pre-labeled with draft land cover and use attributes, and the remotely sensed imagery are provided to countries and regional experts for validation. Through a series of regional training workshops, and in partnership with the European Commission¿s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) in the United States, the RSS brings together leading land cover remote sensing scientists to analyse satellite data and engage with country experts in over 150 countries. A web-based data portal has been built to access the raw data, the pre-labelled land cover polygons and the final, validated land cover and land use attribution. The access to free remote sensing data and software will particularly benefit developing countries with limited forest monitoring data or capacity.
At the time of writing (December 2009) the data compilation has been completed for all 13 689 sample sites. Initial processing has been done on many samples by JRC and FAO and countries are engaged in the Pilot Study and progressively through the initial national validation and training workshops in Africa and South America. Other regions and countries will follow.
... The main report of the study is planned to be completed by the end of 2011 in the International Year of the Forest.