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New developments contribute to increased forest area estimates and improved species lists for forest inventories.

The biological diversity of the world’s forests is becoming increasingly relevant as countries meet reporting obligations of national institutions and international conventions. While contributing to accelerating extinction rates, forest loss also adds up to the uncertainties associated with climate change. FAO Forestry and through the UN-REDD Programme, FAO supports countries to monitor their forest resources as these are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological diversity. In the present era of Big Data, cooperation among countries, agencies and institutions is crucial for sustaining global forest biodiversity.

Working not only with governments, but also with the academic community, FAO actively contributes towards the advancement of global efforts in biodiversity monitoring at all scales from biomes to species. Within this context, two FAO representatives attended the Inaugural Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative Conference & GFBI-FECS Joint Symposium 2017 held in Beijing last September. At this event, over 70 participants from 33 countries shared methods and proposals aimed at capitalizing on available information related to forest plots across the globe with the objective of generating ideas on data sharing and producing reliable global biodiversity-related products.

 

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Inaugural Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative Conference and GFBI-FECS
Joint Symposium 2017, sponsored by Beijing Forestry University and Forest Ecosystems Editorial Office

 

At the biome scale, FAO recently initiated a huge collaborative effort among institutions from many countries to make use of Open Foris Collect Earth – a tool that enables data collection through Google Earth. This FAO-developed tool enables countries to assess land use and land cover across the world, and has the capacity to produce large amounts of data in a cheap and reliable manner. A study using Open Foris Collect Earth, which focused on forest detection in the world’s drylands, indicated a 9% increase in global forest cover due to previously unreported forests.             

 

Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing software is inadequate to deal with them. According to IBM's Four V's, it must encompass large Volume (inGiga or Terabytes), Variety (in terms of quality and purpose), Velocity in the analysis, and Veracity (in helping reduce the inherent uncertainty).    

 

At the other end of the scale spectrum, country specific biodiversity data will increasingly feed reports for the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as other such international treaties. These usually stem from expert-based preliminary species lists that are used in forest inventories. FAO is currently developing a tool that will complement this work through automatic calls to several global biodiversity databases. This tool corrects misspellings and synonyms in the scientific names of species and has a quality control function of existing lists.

With such tools that improve the accuracy and ability of countries to report plant and animal diversity, the overall global efforts in biodiversity assessments are strengthened.

This support was jointly provided by the Forestry and Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Departments of FAO and through the UN-REDD Prorgamme.

For more information, contact Javier García Pérez (Gamarra), Forestry Statistician () or Jean François Bastin, Land Monitoring Specialist ().

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 Crnjeskovo Viewpoint, Mount Tara, Serbia.  Photo by Vladimir Mijailović. Creative Commons License

 

 

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