PROVIDING ROBUST DATA ON GEORGIAN FORESTS
Roughly 40 percent of Georgia’s land area is covered in forests. But until recently, the government has had a very limited oversight over them. During the last decades, the government has carried out only selected forest inventories for forest management planning, a national forest inventory giving an overview about the forest of the entire country has never been carried out. Therefore, the government lacks vital information about the condition of the Georgian forests.
NATIONAL FOREST INVENTORY
Since 2015, the Integrated Biodiversity Management, South Caucasus (IBiS) programme has undertaken research on a National Forest Inventory in Georgia. The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture (former Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection) plans and implements Georgia’s first National Forest Inventory (NFI). This will provide robust data of the country’s forest resources, the areas covered with forests, the variety of timber species in the country, their distribution, growing stock, and many more data for the first time.
The NFI will provide the basis for political and strategic decisions. Changes in Georgian forests can be monitored by conducting the inventory on a regular basis. This will help during the crafting of recommendations and national and international reports. The NFI will be of importance during the development of research institutions in the forestry field. It will also help to inform the public about the condition of Georgia’s forests.
FOREST MANAGEMENT INVENTORY
In addition to creating the national forest inventory, the Forest Management Inventory on the level of forest management districts is being improved. In contrast to the NFI, the Forest Management Inventory is focused on silvicultural activities (such as harvesting and planting) within the forests. Georgia already has a Forest Management Inventory, but it needs further development to consider and monitor criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. A systematic sampling approach is being applied, as a supplement to the existing methodology. This improvement of the Forest Management Inventory will provide reliable data for managing the forests more sustainably and in an ecosystem-based approach.
FOREST INFORMATION AND MONITORING SYSTEM
The final component that will help Georgia keep track of its forests is the Forest Information and Monitoring System. The current system does not meet requirements, as it lacks centralization (geospatial information is kept separately), which complicates matters. Decision makers do not have access to reliable information. The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, therefore, develops a new centralized system providing robust data to users of the system.
The system will combine information from different levels such as the NFI, forest management procedures and others. It will inform not just the government but also the public, international processes, NGOs and other stakeholders.