Mapping & Monitoring

Monitoring Land Cover and Land Use in Central Africa

The INFORMS Project in Central Africa

One of the key projects for the Woods Hole Research Center’s work in Africa is the collaboration with the INtegrated FORest Monitoring System for Central Africa Project (INFORMS). INFORMS was designed to monitor land-cover and land-use changes in the tropical rain forests of Central Africa through mapping of forest types, extent, spatial distribution, and biomass using an integrated approach of remote sensing and field observations. The goal is to integrate data acquired from satellites with field observations from forest inventories, wildlife surveys, and socioeconomic studies to map and monitor forest resources. Because cooperation among all stakeholders is necessary for a long-term and sustainable system of forest conservation and management, the project emphasizes partnership and coordination with international, regional, national, and local partners from the non-profit, governmental, and commercial sectors.


The Congo Basin in Central Africa contains approximately 90% of Africa's remaining productive forests. This area comprises over 1,812,000 km2 extending across six countries on both sides of the equator. The Atlantic Ocean supplies moisture required for the development of rainforests in the coastal areas of the Basin. Further inland, the forests are supported by watersheds of the Congo River and its numerous tributaries. The vegetation in the Congo Basin is dominated by mixed-species evergreen and deciduous upland forests, but includes a large area of swamps and marshes. This region is remarkable in its richness of large mammals, including forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, and several species of large cats. The high diversity of flora and fauna, and the abundance of natural resources, underscore the inherent ecological, cultural, and economic importance of this region. The accelerating pace of land-use change, forest degradation, and political instability has become a serious threat to the ecological integrity of the Congo Basin's forests. INFORMS aims to document and track the rate and extent of tropical forest degradation in order to aid in the development of improved forest management strategies at local and regional scales.


The process of mapping changes in land-cover and land-use in the tropical rain forests of Central Africa is complicated by the diversity of land uses and the lack of continuous, cloud-free coverage by any single remote sensing instrument. In order to improve vegetation mapping and forest monitoring techniques for the region, Woods Hole Research Center scientists have focused on developing analyses based on the following procedures:

  1. Integrating ex-situ multi-sensor remote sensing observations with in-situ field data
  2. Evaluating regional maps for the application of forest monitoring
  3. Focusing on high biodiversity sites
  4. Establishing a network of international and regional contacts to exchange relevant data and consolidate efforts of mapping and monitoring
  5. Distributing satellite imagery and remote sensing products to partners for applications in forest monitoring and conservation.

Study Sites

The work of the INFORMS project in Central Africa focuses primarily in and around protected areas including national parks, national forests, and wildlife reserves. Many of the sites investigated here have also been designated as landscapes of interest under the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), an international effort comprised of over thirty national governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.


Central Africa's protected areas and landscapes of interest as designated by the CBFP. Please use the links below to learn more about the INFORMS project in each of these parks or protected areas.