Apply Knowledge Globally

Supporting Costa Rica’s National All-Lands Monitoring System


Participants receive their certificates at the conclusion of the training. Forest Service photo by Randy Hamilton.

COSTA RICA – The week of April 23rd Forest Service Statistician Paul Patterson and Forester Tracey Frescino, both from the Rocky Mountain Research Station, delivered a technical workshop to partners in Costa Rica in support of their national all-lands monitoring system. The work was funded by the Department of State and coordinated by the International Programs office. 

For some time now, Costa Rica has been developing a National Land Use, Land Cover and Ecosystem Monitoring System to meet their needs for robust and consistent information on the current state and changes of their forests and other lands. One element of the system is an image-based land use and land cover monitoring system similar to the Forest Service’s Image-based Change Estimation system. This subsystem relies on the visual interpretation of land use and land cover data from sample plots distributed systematically across the country, using high-resolution imagery. Costa Rica recently finished interpreting its 10,000(+) plots over the course of three different years and requested Forest Service support in data analysis.

Patterson and Frescino provided instruction on the appropriate statistical estimators to use and how to implement them in the statistical software package R. They also provided important guidance and recommendations on various aspects of the sample design and implementation that will facilitate improvements in the next cycles of interpretation.

This activity is part of long-term technical support to Costa Rica in forest monitoring. In January 2015, the International Programs office placed remote sensing expert Randy Hamilton in Costa Rica, with funding from the Department of State. Since then he has guided the technical design and piloting of SIMOCUTE in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and local counterparts, under the direction of Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy. SIMOCUTE aims to provide consistent, national-scale information on the state and changes in the country’s land. It includes several coordinated subsystems that will integrate field-based data with image-based monitoring systems to provide comprehensive data that can improve land use decision-making and satisfy a variety of national and international reporting requirements.


SIMOCUTE will encompass all lands, including the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, pictured here. Forest Service photo by Randy Hamilton.