Laos is rich in biodiversity. Its numerous landscapes range from mountainous areas to lowland plains. Laos is also a country rich in forest cover. Currently, 40 percent of the land area is covered by virgin forest, which is roughly classified into production, protection and conservation forest. A national forest information system was recently put in place to help qualify and quantify forest resources in the country.
The national Forest Inventory Planning Division,part of the Department of Forestry, with support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), launched a two-year project last year to establish a national forest information system (NFIS) in Laos. The NFIS aims to facilitate and improve information on forest carbon dynamics at the national level and to design a national forest information database based on pilot field surveys collected at the village level, which will help build up a plot location satellite imagery archive. One of the project's main aims is to set up a national forest map to help track and measure carbon stocks. The inventory survey data will then be linked to the maps.
The project manager, Mr. Soukanh Bounthabandid, presented the project design during the fourth meeting of the Forestry Sub-sector working group in the capital Vientiane on Wednesday, 19 March 2014, and pointed out the accuracy of a national forest map must be assessed and corrected continuously, which would be a massive undertaking. He hopes the information outputs can facilitate the piloting of REDD+(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), which is a climate change mitigation framework that creates finance value for carbon stock in the forest and to offer incentives to developing countries to avoid cutting down the forest for economic and subsistence purposes. REDD+ is a relatively new concept to encompass measures for forest conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon sotcks, and was only brought into the Lao forestry management sector in 2008. To estimate the quantity and quality of forest resources including wood, non-timber forest products and biodiversity for sustainable forest management is as well the corner stone to conserving Laos’ currently depreciating forest cover.
Coordination and discussion with projects and agencies involved in forest mapping and inventory in other ASEAM countries is also crucial for lessons learned to shape the design of prototype of the NFIS database.