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GCOS Implementation Plan

The improvement of a consistent global perspective on land change dynamics and their impacts on climate for updating climate change estimates for the UNFCCC is embedded in area systematic research and observations fostered through the cooperation with the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The related Implementation Plan of GCOS is the most advanced Earth Observation framework for implementing a UN convention. The plan emphasizes the need for operational observations for thirteen Essential Climate Variables (ECV) in the terrestrial domain; among them land cover and fire.

In general, the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) with its panel for Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) act as an international agent to:

  • Undertake coordination and planning for systematic land cover and fire related climate observations, as identified in the GCOS IP,
  • Produce plans for the Parties contributions to the global observing system for climate,
  • Report (through the sponsors of GTOS) to the Parties concerning progress, and provide guidance on additional actions they need to take to address any identified problems.

GOFC GOLD has worked on the following action items:

  • Establish international standards and specifications for the production of land-cover characterization maps
  • Produce reliable accepted methods for land-cover map accuracy assessment
  • Commit to continuous 10-30m resolution optical satellite systems with data acquisition strategies at least equivalent to the Landsat 7 mission for land cover
  • Develop an in situ reference network and apply CEOS WGCV validation protocols for land cover
  • Generate annual products documenting global land-cover characteristics at resolutions between 250m and 1km, according to internationally-agreed standards and accompanied by statistical descriptions of the maps' accuracy
  • Generate maps documenting global land cover at resolutions between 10m and 30m every 5 years, according to internationally-agreed standards and accompanied by statistical descriptions of the maps' accuracy

Please see GOFC-GOLD land cover newsletter 8 for more information.

GTOS has released a report on "Terrestrial Essential Climate Variables for Assessment, Mitigation and Adaptation" (GTOS-52), summarizing recent progress made in the different areas. GOFC-GOLD has contributed to the ECV'S' terrestrial standards including fire, land cover and biomass.

The document (GTOS-52) is available on the GTOS website: GTOS Publications

Standard reports for terrestrial ECV's

GTOS and its panels have worked on the development of reporting standards for 13 essential terrestrial climate variables. These standard reports comprise the definition of these variables, an assessment of the available methods and instrument for measuring as well as the existence of standards and protocols.

Within this framework, GOFC-GOLD has taken a lead role for the ECV standard definitions for land cover and fire, and signficantly contributed to biomass. The draft reports for the ECV Land Cover and Biomass are available and open for comments and suggestions to be completed and submitted to UNFCCC/SBSTA30 in June 2009.

GTOS has submitted the 2 page summaries report of the ECV guidelines to the UNFCCC: GTOS Submission.

Download Reports (at FAO/GTOS):

Land Cover Report Biomass Report