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An important function of a national forest monitoring system (NFMS), as set out by the UNFCCC, is the measurement, reporting, verifying (MRV) function. The measurement component of an MRV function is the most data- and labour-intensive, comprising the collection of national area change data through a satellite land monitoring system (SLMS), implementation of a national forest inventory (NFI), and compilation of relevant data and the estimation of emissions and removals through a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the forestry sector. The pillar of the SLMS concerns the collection of activity data (AD), i.e. data on land use and forest area change as a result of human activities, through an SLMS.

Satellite remote sensing can be a useful and cost-effective tool for collecting data on forest area changes. The UN-REDD Programme NFMS Strategy promotes satellite remote sensing as a central tool for monitoring for REDD+, in the form of an SLMS, combined with a web-GIS online dissemination portal. This remote sensing information (e.g.  the location of forest and non-forest areas) can then be uploaded into a web-GIS portal, and made freely available over the Internet, thus promoting the transparency of the NFMS and facilitating the involvement of relevant stakeholders. FAO has formalised its collaboration with Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research to support developing countries to develop national SLMS through the development and implementation of SLMS and web-GIS portals (See, for example, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s online forest monitoring portal (

In this video, the work of the thematic group working on remote sensing and webportals , based in FAO headquarters with the UN-REDD Programme,  explains how the SLMS should be used to collected data on historical trends in land use change. Although little or no historical ground data sets exist for most developing counties, international satellite data archives allow the analysis of historical imagery dating back 20 years. The benefit of remote sensing, in addition to its ability to provide spatially explicit information and frequent temporal coverage, includes the possibility of covering large and possibly remote areas and/or regions. Remote sensing techniques should be adapted to be in compliance with the principles of consistency, completeness, comparativeness, accuracy and transparency, as recommended by the IPCC (IPCC, 2003). Remote sensing data should be used to measure annual changes in land use through a consistent methodological approach over time, which includes the assessment of historical rates of deforestation and degradation, in order to fulfill the needs of UNFCCC reporting.


URL  webportals :

Contact: Inge Jonckheere, Forestry Officer, Team leader of thematic area of remote sensing and web portals of the UN-REDD Programme with FAO,