Database on global land use - The UN Food and Agriculture Organisaton (FAO) has launched a new database which gathers under one roof previously scattered information about land cover, how much land is covered by croplands, trees, forests, or bare soils, which are crucial to establishing a good global understanding of the physical characteristics of the Earth’s surface.
An FAO official, Mr. John Latham, in a statement on Tuesday in New York, said: '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.'
He noted that the database, known as: 'The Global Land Cover SHARE database (GLC-SHARE)', represents a major and historic improvement: up until now, such data was collected by different countries and organizations which identified, measured and recorded information in diverse, uneven ways.
He stated that the GLC-SHARE pulled together all that data and submitted it to a thorough quality-control, harmonizing process, using internationally accepted definitions and standards, thereby bringing a wealth of country-level information into one consolidated dataset spanning the entire planet.
Mr. Latham also said that 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.
'This update to our understanding of the Earth's land cover comes at a crucial time,' the FAO offcial added.
He also noted that '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 and enabling of inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems.'
'As well as 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.
FAO's new database revealed the breakdown of 11 global land cover layers to comprise of tree-covered areas (27.7 percent), bare soils (15.2 percent), grasslands (13.0 percent), croplands (12.6 percent), snow and glaciers (9.7 percent), shrub-covered areas (9.5 percent), sparse vegetation (7.7 percent) and inland water bodies (2.6 percent).
Others are herbaceous vegetation (1.3 percent), artificial surfaces (0.6 percent) and mangroves (0.1 percent).
The UN agency also stressed that 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.
FAO estimates furthermore that world food production will need to increase by 60 percent by 2050, for the most part, on lands that are already being cultivated.