The North American Forest Database: going beyond national-level forest resource assessment statistics
Forests cannot be managed sustainably without reliable data to inform decisions. National Forest Inventories (NFI) tend to report national statistics, with sub-national stratification based on domestic ecological classification systems. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to report statistics on ecosystems that span international borders, as global change and globalization expand stakeholders’ spheres of concern. The state of a transnational ecosystem can only be properly assessed by examining the entire ecosystem. In global forest resource assessments, it may be useful to break national statistics down by ecosystem, especially for large countries. The Inventory and MonitoringWorking Group (IMWG) of the North American Forest Commission (NAFC) has begun developing a harmonized North American Forest Database (NAFD) for managing forest inventory data, enabling consistent, continental-scale forest assessment supporting ecosystem-level reporting and relational queries. The first iteration of the database contains data describing 1.9 billion ha, including 677.5 million ha of forest. Data harmonization is made challenging by the existence of definitions and methodologies tailored to suit national circumstances, emerging from each country’s professional forestry development. This paper reports the methods used to synchronize three national forest inventories, starting with a small suite of variables and attributes.