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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI)

Activity ID: 130


Based on the achievements of the GEO Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) Task through 2008 to 2010 and the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) through 2011 to 2016, the GFOI seeks to further foster forest monitoring and assessment that is robust, reliable, and achievable at reasonable cost and supports planning for national development priorities including, climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The GFOI aims to:

  1. Foster the sustained availability of observations for national forest monitoring systems;
  2. Support governments that are establishing national systems by providing a platform for coordinating observations, providing assistance and guidance on utilising observations, developing accepted methods and protocols, and promoting ongoing research and development;
  3. Work with national governments that report into international forest assessments such as the national greenhouse gas inventories reported to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) using methods of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The fundamental objective of GFOI is assist REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks) developing countries to develop sovereign technical, human and institutional capacity to monitor their own forests and account for their own GHG emissions. The intention is that countries will then use this capacity to generate their own robust information to inform more reliable decision making and policy development on the appropriate management of their forests and potentially provide confidence for REDD+ activities. The work of GFOI is undertaken by five components: Methods & Guidance, Space Data Acquisition, Capacity Building, Research and Development (R&D) Coordination, and Administration and Coordination (GFOI Office).

Activities for the period

The activities will be more focusing on country engagement, including the uptake and continued use of GFOI products and mechanisms to support in countries’ forest monitoring activities. Publication of MGD2.0 and the launch of the MGD web portal. Improved coordination between GFOI components, including an ‘end-to-end’ demonstration of the full GFOI cycle which would involve all components working in synchrony in an initial country or countries, to test and prove the value of the GFOI model. GFOI fosters the sustained availability of observations for national forest monitoring systems and provides broad support to governments that are establishing these systems.

Activities include:

Space Data

The SDCG for GFOI has produced a Three-Year Work Plan for 2015 – 2017, which was endorsed by CEOS. The Work Plan has been prepared to map out the activities of the SDCG covering the finalisation and implementation of the space data supply for GFOI.

The purpose of the GFOI Space Data coordination efforts for the period 2016 and beyond will be:

  • Continued coordination of core data streams and addition of new core data streams and products;
  • Continued development of data services tools for data acquisition planning, data storage, and data processing to support country needs;
  • Expansion of R&D data supply and improved coordination of efforts; and,
  • Engagement of priority countries in the implementation of the above via all channels available, and in particular in coordination with the GFOI Lead Team (i.e. FAO) and the other GFOI components (i.e. R&D, MGD);
  • Contributing to the GFOI end-to-end demonstration with the other component in targeted countries.

Methods and Guidance Documentation (MGD)

The Methods and Guidance documents have proven to be a very useful GFOI product. To improve the accessibility and utility of the document, the development of an MGD version 2.0 and a web application is operation. The second version of the MGD will be more user-friendly, with step-by-step instructions and less technical language, and will also include more linkages to training and decision support tools. An MGD web application aims to turn the MGD into a tool, providing more country-focused, customised support. Further integrating MGD 2.0 and the web application in to capacity building efforts will be pursued in 2016 and beyond. The MGD will develop additional modules to be included in the web application to cover new topics as they emerge. This work will be done in partner with the R&D Coordination Component, including identifying when R&D topics become operational and how countries can adopt these for use in their systems and methods.


After a brief hiatus, the GFOI R&D Coordination Component has recently been fully reinstated after receiving funding from ESA. In transitioning the R&D Plan in to action, the following key activities are foreseen in 2016 (and beyond):

  • R&D Coordination component management;
  • Initialisation and coordination of R&D activities in parallel with SDCG Element-3 strategy implementation;
  • Manage participating (external) research teams and coordinate reporting and communication of results to space agencies and other GFOI components;
  • Coordinate an Expert Workshops Expert Workshop on forest degradation with CONABIO in Mexico;
  • GFOI Science Meeting to showcase the research supported by GFOI, and discuss the R&D coordination and data provision by GFOI to the research teams;
  • Support to the update of the MGD incorporating state-of-the-art operational forest monitoring methods, ensuring complementarity with the GOFC-GOLD REDD Sourcebook;
  • Further support to the capacity building activities participating in the development and update of training materials, and in the organisation of training workshop;
  • Update the GFOI Review of Priority R&D Topics; and, Liaison with other GFOI components and partners.

Capacity Building

  • SilvaCarbon and UNREDD will continue to provide a link between the implementing countries and the GFOI and its partners and components;
  • SilvaCarbon will continue to host a series of in-country capacity building workshops;
  • UNREDD will continue to work with countries to assist in the development of their forest reference emissions levels (FRELs) for REDD+, GHG inventories, efforts to access performance based payment from the World Bank’s trust funds and broader forest monitoring capacities;
  • The capacity building component will work on becoming more closely coordinated with the space data and MGD components; and,
  • Will work with the GFOI Lead Team and GFOI partners, such as the FAO, to develop a coordinated country engagement plan and stock take of country priorities and measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) status.

Policy mandate

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has developed a new mechanism known as REDD+. REDD+ seeks to create a financial incentive for developing countries to reduce net emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, and foster forest conservation, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of existing carbon stocks nationally. In order to access international finance from REDD+, developing countries have to be able to generate verifiable emissions reductions. To do so, they must develop national forest monitoring systems (NFMS) and emission measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) processes to prove that the emissions reductions are real. This capacity will also allow countries to track progress towards their own emissions reduction targets, generate credible information to inform domestic decision making and policy development and more generally improve forest management. GFOI is seeking to assist REDD+ countries to develop their own sovereign NFMS and MRV procedures.

Remote sensing provides a cost effective input for these systems given the expectation that REDD+ should ultimately be implemented on the national scale according to the UNFCCC.


  • Delivery of core data streams and products;
  • Services tools for data acquisition planning, storage, and processing to support country needs;
  • Production of Methods and Guidance Documentation (in several languages);
  • REDDcompass web based application for developing Forest monitoring and MRV systems;
  • ‘Training the Trainer’ Workshop series.

User engagement

GFOI already has established strong links with end users. These are forested developing countries, particularly those with a national commitment to implementing REDD+.

GFOI capacity building includes a broad array training, information sharing and technology transfers. This is delivered through a combination of workshops, specific training modules, one-on-one training, exchange programs, webinars and the provision of REDDcompass which is designed to serve as an ever present buddy to accompany countries all the way through their system design and development phase.

GFOI continues to grow the involvement of REDD+ countries in its activities, by inviting them to participate in the annual open forum, regular seminars, UNFCCC side-events and additional training opportunities. This allows for GFOI partners to identify the evolving needs of their end users and adjust their assistance accordingly.

Future plans

The GFOI does not yet have a formalized data management policy, since the majority of data used through GFOI are supplied by data providers with data policies in place. However all partners agree on assisting developing countries to understand, analyze and use forest data that is freely available, open source, national, transparent, time series and operational datasets that best meet countries forest monitoring and reporting needs.

GFOI partners are also pursuing the Date Cube concept to assist in providing countries with analysis ready data that has been preprocessed to an acceptable level. Amongst other benefits, the Data Cube is hoped to help address issues with interoperability and reduce lengthy and resource intensive data processing for developing countries and ultimately help to reduce their transaction costs from participation in REDD+. At present Data Cubes are under development for Kenya and Colombia.



  • Support to the GFOI office has been promised at US$ 800,000/year from Norway and Australia.

In-kind (human resources)

  • Through coordination, the GFOI builds up on and adds additional value to existing partner activities. In-kind support is provided to all components from Australia, Japan, Norway, UK, USA, CEOS, ESA, and the FAO;
  • Support for authors of the Methods and Guidance Document comes from a wider range of countries and organisations.



Members: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, USA.

Participating Organizations: CEOS, ESA, WB.

Others: Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Linkages across the Work Programme

Flagships: GEOGLAM.

Initiatives: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; GEO Carbon and GHG Initiative.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Thomas Harvey