United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space: 2006
Forty-ninth session
(7-16 June 2006)

Symposium "Space and Forests"


Theme of the Symposium

Vast areas of the world, approximately 4 billion hectares or 30 per cent of  the world's land area, are covered with various kinds of forests. Among them are  tropical, subtropical, temperate and boreal forests, rainforests, mountain forests and  mangroves. Forests provide raw materials for wood products, food, fuel and shelter,  as well as for a large variety of medicines. They sustain ecosystems, which purify air and water, regulate the climate and recycle nutrients and wastes.

Forests are endangered, among other threats, by erosion, fire, pollution and over-cutting, of which the latter by itself, contributes to land degradation, loss of biodiversity and the disruption of local ecosystems. These stresses result in a loss of forest at a rate of 375 square kilometres a day, equivalent to an area the size of Greece each year. By today, we have lost 80 per cent of the original forest on Earth.

An essential requirement to identify and mitigate existing or potential threats to forests is to have good monitoring systems in place, including forest cover maps. Such maps, together with satellite images, can be used to monitor sustainability of forest ecosystems and estimate forest biomass by country, ecological zone, climate region and other terrestrial characteristics. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are very useful in organizing and combining various types of information necessary to manage forests.

Satellite remote sensing technology can provide periodic and systematic observations, which are very useful in promoting the sustainable development and exploitation of forests. Space-based remote sensing offers the data needed for an up-to-date and objective inventory of every area on Earth. Such data might not be possible, or affordable, to obtain from ground surveys due to remoteness of the observed site or the cost associated with ground surveys. Satellite remote sensing, complimented with other applications, have proven cost-effective for conducting time-series and large-scale observations of the Earth's systems.



The objectives of this symposium are:

  • to present a brief overview of the available technology that is used in monitoring forests;
  • to present case studies on the uses and benefits of space-based technology in forestry; 
  • to identify ways in which developing countries can make use of space-based data and information to protect their forests; and 
  • to recommend ways of expanding the use, particularly in developing countries, of space-based data and information for management of forests.


Moderator: L. Beckel, Austria
Introductory remarks
L. Beckel, Austria
Powerpoint Presentation
Global forest monitoring
A. Branthomme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Powerpoint Presentation
Global TREES Project: using space applications for monitoring forests
A. Belward, European Commission
Powerpoint Presentation
Applications of remote sensing data in forestry
E. Csató, Hungary
Powerpoint Presentation
Space technology for monitoring and managing forests in Nigeria
A. Salami, Nigeria
Powerpoint Presentation
Forest area monitoring in Thailand with the use of satellite imagery
J. Wichawutipong, Thailand
Powerpoint Presentation

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