Monday, October 20, 2014

Open Foris: The Open Source Software Tools To Monitor, Improve State of World's Forests

Open Foris: Open Source Software Tools Launched. Press Release. FAO has launched free software tools that it hopes will improve the way many developing nations monitor the state of their forests to tackle deforestation and climate change.

The tools are designed to assist countries through the entire lifecycle of a forest inventory - from assessment, design and field data collection to analysis and reporting. The governments of Finland and Germany have supported the development of the software called Open Foris.

Global knowledge sharing platform
The Forestry Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization helps nations manage their forests in a sustainable way. Accurate information about forests is crucial for governments to manage their natural resources sustainably, but nearly 80 percent of developing countries have difficulty obtaining and using basic information about their forest resources.

At the same time, deforestation and forest degradation - largely taking place in developing countries - are among the largest sources of carbon emissions globally caused by humans.

"Many countries simply do not have a full picture of what is happening in their forests, and without that knowledge it is hard to develop effective forest policies to combat deforestation and forest degradation or to advance national climate change strategies," Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General for Forestry, explained.

"We hope that Open Foris will be a game changer, as it is the first comprehensive open source tool that will not only guide the countries through the whole process of data collection and analysis but will also encourage and facilitate open knowledge sharing in an innovative way. Increased transparency will help the policy makers obtain the information they need to make informed decisions," he added.

The new FAO tools also simplify the complex process of transforming raw data such as tree measurements and satellite imagery into valuable information in the form of interactive web pages with statistics, graphs, maps and reports.

In addition, the software includes built-in tools to help countries meet international reporting requirements, for example in the context of REDD+ activities related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increasing the carbon stock in forests.

Piloting in more than 10 countries
Released at the 2014 International Union of Forest Research Organizations' World Congress in Salt Lake City, Open Foris tools are already being successfully tested in more than 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For example, earlier this year Ecuador and Tanzania completed their first national forest inventories with the help of Open Foris tools, and a number of experts from other countries, such as Argentina, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea and Uruguay have recently received training to use different components of the software.

Viet Nam carries out a national forest inventory every five years, and for the first time has been piloting Open Foris in one region after adapting the open source code to use the software in Vietnamese.

Forest rangers collect information on canopy cover and the number, size, species and quality of trees as well as the use of forest resources by local populations before entering the data into Open Foris software back at the office.

"It enables us to calculate variables and changes to the forest and tree resources within a certain period, as well as changes to other environmental values of the forests such as carbon pools, biodiversity and non-timber forest products," said Ho Manh Tuong of Viet Nam'sForest Inventory and Planning Institute. "Through the program, the complete national forest stock can be assessed."

The inventory will soon become even more efficient when rangers start using an Open Foris tool that enables them to enter data directly with their smartphones or tablets, eliminating the need to input information collected on paper forms.

Open Foris tools in detail
Collect EarthWorks with Google Earth for a pre-assessment of forest resources
Collect DesktopHelps design a survey specifying all the types of data to be collected and produces a data entry interface
Collect MobileEnables data entry for hand-held devices and tablets during collection in the field
CalcAnalyses data and helps create results visualization

Geospatial Toolkit
Processes remote sensing and other geospatial data

Free forestry software in the battle against climate change

David Morales, a Forestry Officer with FAO in Rome, explains more about why these new tools are necessary

Open Foris tools
FAO Forest Monitoring and Assessment
Finland-FAO Forestry Programme

Capacity Building for REDD+


@FAOForestry - The Forestry Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization helps nations manage their forests in a sustainable way.

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Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

FAO creates and shares critical information about food, agriculture and natural resources in the form of global public goods. But this is not a one-way flow. We play a connector role, through identifying and working with different partners with established expertise, and facilitating a dialogue between those who have the knowledge and those who need it. By turning knowledge into action, FAO links the field to national, regional and global initiatives in a mutually reinforcing cycle. By joining forces, we facilitate partnerships for food and nutrition security, agriculture and rural development between governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector.

An intergovernmental organization, FAO has 194 Member Nations, two associate members and one member organization, the European Union. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, FAO is present in over 130 countries.


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George Kourous
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Irina Utkina
Media Relations (Rome)
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