Data transparency for forests in Latin America and the Caribbean

New book is a milestone in harmonizing national forest inventories

cover of book
The book was first published in Spanish. It represents a huge step towards data transparency in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition to providing food, medicine, timber, and many other things people need, forests store huge amounts of carbon. Forests also have the potential to release that carbon. Carbon accounting across entire regions is an increasingly important part of climate action, particularly international agreements.

A new book, now available in English as well as Spanish, shows how 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean could harmonize their forest inventories. With harmonized inventories, forests can be understood across political boundaries and for entire regions.

More than 83 experts wrote the book together. Among the authors are Tom Brandeis and Humfredo Marcano-Vega, both with the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis program.

The book is called National Forest Inventories of Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards the harmonization of forest information, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Over its 26 chapters, the book explores the similarities and differences in how each country implements its inventory, the potential benefits of harmonizing national forest inventories, and much more. The second part of the book discusses the history, design, and scope of forest inventories in each country.

As in the U.S., inventories in Latin America and the Caribbean inform forest management and provide information on disturbances, timber and non-timber products, tree growth, and much more.

Brandeis and Marcano-Vega wrote several chapters, including one on the forest inventories of Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands. They discuss recent improvements, including an annualized design, hexagonal grids, and sample intensification. “We have some additional upgrades planned for the inventory in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” says Marcano-Vega.

For years, Brandeis, Marcano-Vega, and other Forest Service experts have collaborated with Latin American and Caribbean countries. Their commitment to this work is apparent. They have hosted visiting scholars, organized field tours, and taught classes on forest inventory data analysis.

conducting a forest inventory
A forest inventory on St. John Island, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. Forest Service photo by Humfredo Marcano-Vega. 

“Our regional FIA program has been involved with and provided support both directly to individual countries in the region and through the Latin America and Caribbean Forestry Commission of the U.N.,” says Brandeis.

The book represents a major collaboration between 21 countries: Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, French Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay.

As a result of writing the book together, these countries have organized into a network to promote forest monitoring and move towards harmonization of their national inventories. Three new countries have joined the network, adding to the more than 65,000 permanent inventory plots in the region.

Read the full text of the book.

For more information, email Tom Brandeis at or Humfredo Marcano-Vega at

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