The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is a joint initiative of the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Union (EU), providing a response to dynamic and growing global information needs. The main vision and goal of both ESA and the EU for the GMES programme is to establish an European capacity for the provision of operational information services for global monitoring of environment and security. This is embedded in a philosophy that the application of Earth Observation (EO) for decision-making has to be driven by the user community, which hitherto had barely been involved in the process of EO development.
The GMES Service Elements (GSE) supported by ESA from 2003 onwards delivered policy-relevant services to end-users, based on data from Earth Observation (EO) sources, primarily from satellites. In addiction to acknowledgin the need for (monitoring) services, GMES also identified thematic priorities for the proposed services, of which GSE Forest Monitoring (GSE FM) was one of them. Forests are important ecosystems that have a systemic impact on the biodiversity, the water cycle and micro climate of a region. Increasingly governments have to focus on the improved management of these forest resources because of their various functions. For example the topical issue of climate change has a key focus on the monitoring of forests as carbon sinks which requires improved information on forest area, forest types and rates of deforestation.
The GSE FM services focus on the application of EO for improved forest management. GSE FM has been managed by an international consortium since 2003, and has been routinely supplying users with a Service Portfolio of validated products and services to support decision-making and improved implementation of policies that enable sustainable forest management. GSE FM utilises the advanced capabilities of the EO available today to meet the requirements of the end users. GSE FM supplied users with accurate, reliable, timely and effective information on the state of global forest systems in order to
- support decision-making and improved implementation of environmental policies
- compliance with specific protocols and binding conventions
- related user and/or policy-driven activities
The services provided for the various policy segments were based on combinations of products including:
- Land use and land use change maps
- land cover and land cover change maps
- forest cover and forest cover change maps
- clear cut/disturbance maps and related databases
- stand-type maps that support sub-national forest Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- forest fragmentation and structural diversity maps
- stem volumens, biomass and carbon statistics and corresponding change data, as well as user-customised versions and/or combinations of these itmes
The GSE FM had two main stages of development; the first Stage was considered to be a consolidation phase (2003-2005) which focused on consolidating, aggregating, integrating and improving existing European service capacities, systems and precursor services, in order to make them operational with a reasonable timeframe. The next phase (2005-2009) was the implementation phase and targeted the roll-out and expansion of services derived from a stable Service Portfolio to users worldwide. Thus the GSE FM has achieved a level of maturity for all services and these can be easily accessible to any new user.
The main objectives of the GSE FM revolved around the development of operational sustainable services to the user community in the forest and environment sector. Related to these objectives the following cardinal requirements had to be implemented:
- long-term sustainability for a set of GMES services
- delivery of services and benefits to users on progressively larger scales
- establishing a durable, open, distributed GMES Service Provision Network
- establishment of standards and working practices for GMES Services