skip to content

Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment



Alan Belward is based within the Institute for Environment and Sustainability at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in northern Italy.

He is the Head of the Land Use Change Management Unit, one of eight Units within JRC which contains around 1,400 researchers. The Unit provides information for European and International policies aiming to balance competing land-use demands whilst securing access to natural resources and maintaining ecosystem services. A key element of their research is that land and soil should be considered as finite resources – food, fibre and fuel production must be optimised whilst maintaining and enhancing the land’s role as a carbon sink and a hydrologic reservoir that underpins biological diversity. Their research documents trends in the condition of land, the efficiency of its use and management choices, along with how these respond to changing environmental, societal and economic conditions.

Alan received the BSc degree in Plant Biology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1981, and MPhil and PhD degrees in remote sensing studies of vegetation, both from Cranfield University’s School of Agriculture Food and Environment in 1986 and 1993 respectively. In the 1990s he co-chaired the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme’s Land Cover Working Group and chaired the Committee for Earth Observing Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Calibration and Validation. From 2002 to 2006 he chaired the Global Climate Observing System’s (GCOS) Terrestrial Panel and in 2009 he was appointed to the GCOS Steering Committee.  In 2011, he was part of the most comprehensive forest survey ever, which involved 190 countries. An essential tool for his research is data from the Landsat satellite program, which has taken detailed pictures of forest canopies for over 40 years.

He is a member of the NASA and USGS Landsat Data Continuity Mission Science Team and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 Mission Advisory Group and is also a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Vienna.


Head of the Land Resource Management Unit,
Institute for Environment and Sustainability,
European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) in Ispra, Italy
Dr Alan  Belward
Not available for consultancy