INSPIRE Knowledge Base

Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) of the United Nations

LMO Description
Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) of the United Nations
Proposed role in INSPIRE development
  • submit reference material as input to the Drafting Teams
  • yes
  • contribute to awareness raising and training
  • yes
    Level of authority: 
    Formal Mandate: 
    <p>In 1996, four United Nations bodies and an international scientific community created the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). GTOS has been based on the recommendations expressed by UNCED (United Nation Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro 1992), Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity, regarding the urgent need of co-ordinate, systematic and harmonized action on land data collection and environmental monitoring. Since then GTOS has been the UN task master for coordination of terrestrial observations in the international domain. Hosted at the FAO, GTOS is a programme for observations, modelling, and analysis of terrestrial ecosystems to support sustainable development.</p> <p>GTOS facilitates access to information on terrestrial ecosystems so that researchers and policy makers can detect and manage global and regional environmental change.</p> <p>Among the activties, GTOS is tasked with operationalization of land observations including issues of harmonization (e.g. land cover), validation, data accessibility, and capacity building. </p> <p>Particular responsibilities of GTOS in the INSPIRE process is to ensure that efforts are conform with internationally developing standards in land observations, e.g. the UN Land Cover Classification system (LCCS) as agreed common language for describing the earth surface characteristics and evolving standards for validation.</p> <p>GTOS has two sister observing systems, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), and the Global Oceanic Observing System (GOOS). Each system is part of the larger plan to provide comprehensive, global data on the biophysical environment, ecosystem processes and the socio-economic forces that influence them. This knowledge base is a prerequisite for effective planetary management.</p>
    Main Activities: 
    The Global Terrestrial Observing System fulfils its mission through a number of complementary activities. Strengthening the communication between similarly minded groups and harmonizing their efforts is of highest priority. To this effect, the observing system often plays the broker - bringing people from different fields of expertise together at one table. In addition to networking, GTOS also develops regional programmes and coordinates demonstration projects. One of the major partnerships in recent years has been been the Global Land Cover Network (GLCN). The overall objective of the GLCN is to increase the availability of reliable and standardized information on land cover and its changes at the global level. GLCN provides a neutral international clearinghouse for land cover mapping and monitoring projects. It develops effective communication links with relevant organizations, advises on harmonization of land cover mapping methodologies and widely disseminates information on their products and services.
    GTOS is here represented from the ESA GOFC-GOLD land cover project office in Jena, Germany
    Area of work/experience
    Geographic Domain:: 
    Societal Sector: 
    United Nations
    Previous Experience relevant for INSPIRE development: 
    Development of internatational standards for land cover observations and validation.
    Primary Business: 
    Terrestrial mapping and monitoring, harmonization and standardization
    Environmental application domains: 
    land cover and environmental monitoring