UNECE’s new data platform will help monitor forests 

Piz dal Acqua mountain in Switzerland's national park in the canton of Grisons, August, 2008. (Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

The online tool combines data collected from different international and national sources in Europe, Russian, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has launched InForest, an online data platform to monitor forests throughout the region. Launched in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the tool aims to make it easier for experts but also for others unfamiliar with the forest sector, such as decision-makers, researchers and students to look at how forest resources are being used in each country and spot trends.

“The main objective was to improve visibility and provide access to forest and forest sector data and (...) to reach beyond our traditional circle of users to other sectors and the general public,” said Roman Michalak, economic affairs officer of UNECE’s forestry and timber section, in launching the platform.

The platform offers a wide range of indicators such as the growth of forest area, the number of forest fires suffered by a country every year, or the overall mass of plant matter above the soil surface, which can indicate how much carbon is being stored. Economic indicators such as the amount of wood used for energy or the imports and exports of forest products can also be found.

According to the following charts, Switzerland’s forests have grown by 2.92 per cent since 1990.

However, it has not increased its protected forest areas, contrary to other countries like Germany and France which made significant strides in the past decades.

In the past three decades, the world has lost around 420 million hectares of its forests, according to FAO and UNECE figures. Meanwhile, forest areas in the UNECE region have increased by 33.5 million hectares thanks to expansion efforts, which have compensated for the forest area converted for land use.

“This puts countries in the UNECE region at the forefront of the global race to achieve one of the key indicators of sustainable development goal 15: life on land, pertaining to the overall increase of forest area,” UNECE said in its press release.