Forest information is needed at global, national and local scales. This review aimed at providing insights of potential of national forest inventories (NFIs) as well as challenges they have to cater to those needs. Within NFIs, the authors address the methodological challenges introduced by the multitude of scales the forest data are needed, and the challenges in acknowledging the errors due to the measurements and models in addition to sampling errors. Between NFIs, the challenges related to the different harmonization tasks were reviewed. While a design-based approach is often considered more attractive than a model-based approach as it is guaranteed to provide unbiased results, the model-based approach is needed for downscaling the information to smaller scales and acknowledging the measurement and model errors. However, while a model-based inference is possible in small areas, the unknown random effects introduce biased estimators. The NFIs need to cater for the national information requirements and maintain the existing time series, while at the same time providing comparable information across the countries. In upscaling the NFI information to continental and global information needs, representative samples across the area are of utmost importance. Without representative data, the model-based approaches enable provision of forest information with unknown and indeterminable biases. Both design-based and model-based approaches need to be applied to cater to all information needs. This must be accomplished in a comprehensive way In particular, a need to have standardized quality requirements has been identified, acknowledging the possibility for bias and its implications, for all data used in policy making.
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