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Mar 17, 2014

FAO initiative brings global land cover data

A new Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) database is collecting previously scattered and unharmonized land cover information from around the globe into one centralized database.

The database marks a major improvement in information regarding the physical characteristics of the Earth's surface.

The database which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by George Kourous, of the FAO Media Relations in Rome, noted that up to now, one of the major challenges to getting a good global overview of land cover such as how much land is covered by croplands, trees or forests, bare soils; had been the fact that different countries and organizations go about identifying, measuring and recording such data in diverse ways.

But for FAO's new Global Land Cover SHARE database (GLC-SHARE), data pulled from multiple sources and partners is quality-controlled and harmonized using internationally accepted definitions and standards, bringing a wealth of country-level information into one consolidated data-set spanning the entire planet.

Applications of the new GLC-SHARE database include monitoring of global land cover trends, evaluating the suitability of land for various uses, assessing the impact of climate change on food production, and land-use planning.

"A strong understanding of our planet's land cover is essential to promoting sustainable land resources management - including agricultural production to feed a growing population - that makes efficient use of increasingly scarce natural resources yet safeguards the environment," said John Latham, of FAO's Land and Water Division.

"It will be a valuable tool in assessing the sustainability of agriculture, and for supporting evidence based-sustainable rural development and land use policy contributing to reducing poverty, enabling of inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems and increasing resilience of livelihoods.

GLC-SHARE will also help us understand how climate change and climate variability are impacting key natural resources, as well as food production, he said.

A surging global population and growing demand for food pose major challenges for agriculture, which in the years to come will need to produce more food using fewer natural resources while at the same time coping with a changing climate.

The FAO has estimated that world food production would need to increase by 60 per cent by 2050, for the most part on lands that are already being cultivated.

The FAO's new database (GLC-SHARE) includes 11 global land cover layers such as artificial surfaces which cover 0.6 per cent of the earth's surface, bare soils - 15.2 per cent, croplands - 12.6 per cent, grasslands -13.0 per cent, herbaceous vegetation -1.3 per cent, inland water bodies - 2.6 per cent, mangroves - 0.1 per cent, shrub-covered areas - 9.5 per cent, snow and glaciers - 9.7 per cent, sparse vegetation - 7.7 per cent and tree-covered areas - 27.7 per cent.

Source: GNA