Glasgow Forest Declaration needs new modes of data ownership

Published on
April 13, 2022

At the COP26 climate change conference last year, 141 countries signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. They recognise that efforts to limit global warming must stop deforestation by 2030, reduce forest degradation and expand forest cover. With just eight years to go, urgent challenges remain. In a commentary in Nature Climate Change Wageningen researchers highlight their recommendations.

A successful transformation to better protect and manage forests requires international-to-local actions that empower indigenous people and local communities. It will also depend on much improved access to information on where and why forests are changing. This information is needed to define policies and actions that guide and support implementation and enforcement on the ground. As well as to report the progress and results of such activities. In their commentary in Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers including three from Wageningen University & Research discuss key challenges and their remedies.

Make national inventory data freely available

Prof. Gert-Jan Nabuurs, lead-author and Professor of European Forest Resources at Wageningen University & Research: “Open-access satellite imagery allows accurate remote monitoring of forest cover in near real-time. These data are freely available, and their spatial and temporal resolution improves continuously. But it remains difficult to monitor the longer and more gradual processes of forest regrowth, reforestation and restoration.” For these, National Forest Inventory (NFI) data are crucial. Though it depends on the region and countries those NFI data are commonly acquired every few years, but are not readily available to everyone who might make use of them.

Open access to both satellite and inventory plot data will permit anyone to assess, challenge or verify land use impacts globally
Dr. Johannes Reiche

The authors urge government agencies that produce taxpayer-funded NFIs to share NFI data freely. In particular NFI data addressing concerns from landowners, including peoples and other local communities. Dr. Johannes Reiche, co-author and Associate Professor Remote Sensing: “Ensuring open access to both satellite and inventory plot data is very important. Because it will permit anyone to assess, challenge or verify land use impacts globally. This can help to ‘bridge the gap’ between decadal inventory cycles and (intra) annual satellite change assessments.”

Involve communities

Effective local forest governance and protection requires targeted action as well as data. Communities should be involved and should benefit from their participation, while also contributing to new and ongoing National Forest Inventories and training data collection for remote sensing-assisted forest assessments. Prof. Douglas Sheil, co-author and Professor Forest Ecology and Management: “In many regions of the planet indigenous peoples and others offer the most effective eyes and feet on the ground. Their needs and observations must be recognized and integrated into an inclusive process of global forest monitoring and informed forest protection. This as part of the $1.7 billion promised in Glasgow to support indigenous communities.”

“We fear that if those actions are not well-advanced in the coming months the ability to monitor targets set for 2030 (and beyond) will disappoint everyone”, added Nabuurs.