About GFOI

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is coordinating efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS.

GEO was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the G8 (Group of Eight) leading industrialised countries. These high-level fora recognised that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.

GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organisations. As of early 2013, GEO’s Members include 90 Governments and the European Commission. In addition, 67 intergovernmental, international, and regional organisations with a mandate in Earth observation or related issues have been recognised as Participating Organisations.



The Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) is being developed by GEO, led by: Australia, Norway, the USA, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). Experts from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the greenhouse gas inventory programme of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) and institutions in GEO member countries are represented on the Advisory Committee. The UK supports participation of the Chair of the Advisory Group for the Methods and Guidance Documentation.

CEOS has committed resources from the world’s space agencies to provide a systematic contribution of observations to meet the needs of countries participating in GFOI. This coordination is being led by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Norwegian Space Centre (NSC) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with coordination support provided by Australia. Other national space agencies engaged to date include those of Argentina (CONAE), Brazil (INPE), Canada (CSA), China (CRESDA, NRSCC), France (CNES), Germany (DLR), Japan (JAXA) and the USA (NASA).

2nd Earth Observation Summit (Japan, 2004)

Participants at the GFOI Component Meetings, Sydney, March 2015


In 2008, GEO developed the Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) programme to support countries in the development of national systems for forest carbon tracking, specifically by demonstrating that international coordination and cooperation can provide data and information useful for these countries for their national monitoring and reporting. Additionally the FCT has worked on capacity building, both of human capacity within eleven National Demonstrator countries and technological capacity to host the large amount of data that will be created and utilised.

In 2009, it was recognized that the coordination of satellite data providers and pre-processing centres and provision of methodological guidance and advice for using the data would be necessary for a consistent and sustained system. An ad-hoc Planning Group was established after the 2009 GEO Plenary to develop a concept plan, which was followed by the more formal creation of a Global Forest Observations Initiative Task Force established by the 2010 GEO Plenary. The Task Force had responsibility for the oversight of the GFOI Implementation Plan preparation. The GFOI Implementation Plan was approved by the November 2011 GEO Plenary. Following this approval  the GFOI Task Force met in January 2012 and developed a governance structure and overall work plan for 2012-2013.


In 2013, more permanent and sustainable goveranance arrangements were established, GFOI is lead by the GFOI Lead Team (FAO, CEOS, Australia, Norway and the USA) and is advised by an Advisory Committee. The GFOI office was established in 2013 to improve the coordination between the different componenets of GFO and to support the Lead Team. The work of GFOI is undertaken by five components:

  1. Methods & Guidance Documentation: The GFOI Methods and Guidance Documentation (MGD) is intended to provide options and support to countries in the use of ground observations and remotely sensed data and methodologies for the establishment of their national Forest Monitoring and Carbon Tracking systems, focused on addressing REDD+ objectives in compliance with IPCC good practice guidelines.

    Visit the Methods and Guidance component page for more information.

  2. Coordination of Satellite Data Supply: Facilitation of forest observations in support of national forest monitoring systems is a fundamental objective for GFOI. The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) coordinates the world’s civil space agencies and has taken on the leadership of this component to support supply of data to participating countries.

    Visit the Satellite Data component page for more information.

  3. Capacity Building: The fundamental objective of GFOI is to help nations develop a capacity to utilise Earth Observation data in a credible national forest monitoring system that can provide input to national MRV systems for GHG emissions and removals in IPCC-compliant reporting to the UNFCCC, REDD+ and future carbon markets.

    Visit the Capacity Building component page for more information.

  4. R&D Plan: As new sensors and related capabilities emerge, new methodologies are developed to use these in management and monitoring of forest systems. The conventional forest data products of tomorrow’s MRV reports are today’s areas of research and development. The GFOI Implementation Plan explicitly did not include a budget for GFOI R&D, leaving this as an area to be further addressed through GFOI and synergies with other R&D and donor organisations. The GFOI community is developing a draft R&D plan which identifies priority areas where research is required to achieve its goals. Identified priorities include: forest degradation, mapping of particular forest types (mangrove, peat forests, etc), interoperability, comparison of uncertainties associated to different forest biomass and allometrics estimation methodologies, data model integration.

    Visit the R&D Plan component page for more information.

  5. Administration and Coordination: The implementation of GFOI’s objectives will require coordination and communication across the range of stakeholders including advisory, leadership and “parent” bodies, the participating science and technology community, the forest countries GFOI wishes to serve, the UN bodies intended as recipients of forest country reports, potential donors, etc. This component covers the necessary management functions. This is the main role of the GFOI Office.