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Environment

Emerging Hot Spots and Tracking Global Forest Loss: A New Chapter in GIS for Science

Deforestation impacts the environment in many ways. Habitat loss, desertification, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are just some of the negative effects. In an effort to understand trends in deforestion, Blue Raster collaborated with the World Resources Institute and Esri to publish a study about using spatial statistics to identify Emerging Hot Spots of forest loss. We are excited to announce that this work is part of a new publication.

GIS for Science

Featured in the new Esri Press book, GIS for Science, “Tracking Global Forest Loss” explores the study and the use of advanced geospatial tools to analyze and monitor forest loss throughout Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia.

GIS for Science: Applying Mapping and Spatial Analytics, Volume 2 will officially be released in October 2020, but the pre-release volume is available digitally at this year’s Esri User Conference.

Using Esri’s Emerging Hot Spot Analysis, Blue Raster helped develop a workflow for mapping changes of deforestation through time and visualizing the impact of environmental policy across the world. The Emerging Hot Spot Analysis tool detects trends in data by analyzing new, intensifying, diminishing, and sporadic hot and cold spots. When analyzing for deforestation trends, Blue Raster worked to identify continual trends for hot spots of tree cover loss and cold spots of diminishing loss.

Tracking Global Forest Loss: Emerging Hot Spot Analysis

As the threat to our environment grows, scientists are working with cutting-edge GIS technology to help decision makers, technical experts and the broader public better understand trends in deforestation and improve future forest monitoring. With the ability to quantify deforestation loss over time, governments and other interest groups can create more effective policy over time.

Mekong Infrastructure Tracker

Home to more than 300 million people and some of the most endangered wildlife on the planet, the Greater Mekong region in Southeast Asia is the second most naturally diverse place in the world, second only to the Amazon. This region is also home to the Mekong River which not only sustains much of the wildlife in the area, but also the people. The majority of the population in this region is dependent on the river and its surrounding wetlands to support their way of life. In turn this also means that this population and the vast biodiversity in the region are extremely vulnerable to the economic and environmental outcomes of growing infrastructure.

Mekong River

As one of the nation’s leading think tanks dedicated to building solutions to promote international security, prosperity, and justice, the Stimson Center is working to address the environmental and social impacts along the Mekong river to improve food security, stability and cross-country relations. To help analyze these issues, Blue Raster collaborated with the Stimson Center to create The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker, an interactive Web App to explore the infrastructure boom and its impacts in the Mekong region. With funding provided by USAID, the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker was developed with support from the USAID Mekong Safeguards activity led by The Asia Foundation.

Mekong Infrastructure Tracker

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker web app leverages ArcGIS Online and the ESRI JavaScript API and provides users with data transparency to analyze the type and scale of different infrastructure projects in the region in relation to socioeconomic and environmental factors.

The tracker contains two dashboards, one showing power generation projects and the other showing road, rail, and waterway infrastructure projects. The data in the tracker visualizes projects by type in combination with data showing threatened species, earthquakes over the last twenty years, armed conflict, ethnicity, watersheds and tributaries that can all be turned on and off depending on user preference.

Additionally, users can filter the projects by a variety of statuses: year of completion, project size, sponsoring country, project type, country, or watershed.

Mekong Infrastructure Tracker filter

From these filters, the tracker produces a series of charts and graphs to better visualize some of the statistics surrounding these projects which can then be downloaded based on user needs.

The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker allows for transparency of the infrastructural impact on this region, both protecting the diverse and endangered wildlife as well as the livelihoods of millions of people. Explore this new tool today!

Tracking Grassland Loss in the Great Plains: WWF and Blue Raster Release Plowprint Web Application

Temperate grassland ecosystems, like the Great Plains of North America, are home to a wide variety of plants and animals and provide key ecosystem services, such as soil stabilization, carbon sequestration and water filtration. These lands are under increasing threat of loss due to the expansion of agriculture for food and fuel production and urban development. In the Great Plains, only half of all intact grassland remains, much of it on poor and marginal quality soils. Conversion of grassland to crops in areas of marginal soil is particularly hazardous to ecosystems due to the greater use of fertilizers required to make these lands productive and a higher risk of erosion.

To understand and address these issues faced in the Great Plains, Blue Raster is working with the World Wildlife Fund to bring the annual Plowprint Report online. Since 2016, the Plowprint Report analyzes grassland loss across the Great Plains. Published annually, the report provides a broad overview of trends within large study regions of particular conservation interest, such as the Missouri River Basin (MORB).

plowprint images
Since 2016, the Plowprint Report has published annual findings on grassland loss across the U.S. Great Plains.

“Being able to share the Plowprint Report as an interactive web map is an exciting opportunity to increase awareness about grassland loss across the Great Plains. The Great Plains covers such a large area that it is easy to become disconnected from the landscape beyond where one regularly interacts, and having maps like this with great visual displays at your finger tips allows us to easily see what is happening not just in your community, but across the county, state, region, and beyond.” – Patrick Lendrum, Science Lead at World Wildlife Fund

Plowprint Report Details

The report leverages the USDA’s Cropland Data Layer (CDL), the Canadian Annual Crop Inventory (ACI), the National Land Cover Database (NLCD), US Census TIGER 2019, and Canada Road Network 2018 data to identify areas of “Intact” (grassland) and “Plowprint” (grassland converted to cropland) land by composition and ownership.

These areas are visualized in the new interactive Plowprint web map application. To quantify grassland loss, users can select state or county boundaries, draw, or upload their own areas-of-interest (AOI) for on-the-fly analysis. The tool generates a report with a collection of charts that help the user understand their AOI’s grassland characteristics and trends.

Plowprint image
By leveraging the ArcGIS Image Server, the Plowprint app allows the user to run an on-the-fly analysis of grassland loss for their chosen area of interest (AOI). Outputs can be downloaded as a PDF or CSV. Above, the PDF document provides compelling visuals for understanding trends in the data.

The tool leverages ArcGIS Image Server to quickly analyze the user’s AOI to deliver a report of trends in land use conversion and composition. Users can select data going back to 2009, providing a detailed view of historical patterns. Once the analysis is run for the selected area, users have the option to download the results as a PDF document and CSV file.

With its ability to quantify grassland loss on-the-fly and generate powerful visuals along the way, this application will provide policy makers, companies, and landowners valuable decision making information about habitat conversion within areas under their control. With Great Plains comes great responsibility to monitor these vital ecosystems – Plowprint enables this action.

A Look at the Ohio River: Past, Present, and Future

Ohio River

Image is courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The satellite image captured March 2018 flooding at the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash rivers.

Blue Raster partnered with The National Geographic Society, Lenfest Institute, and seven nonprofit newsrooms on a project entitled, Good River: Stories of the Ohio. The Ohio River runs 981 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois, where it joins the Mississippi. It provides drinking water for five million people, and is also a thoroughfare of business, supporting jobs and communities. But it is also commonly cited as the most polluted river in the United States. For this project, PublicSource and six other participating newsrooms are producing a series of stories about the environment, economy and culture of the Ohio River watershed.

Good River Newsroom Partners

Ohio River StoryMap

To give readers a sense of how big the Ohio River watershed is, Blue Raster created a series of map graphics for the site’s landing page. The maps touch-upon topics including population concentration and impaired waterways. To create the maps, our team used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and leveraged ArcGIS Pro to style the map graphics.

In the series, journalists share the beauty of the Ohio River and threats facing the region. To take readers on an interactive tour of the Ohio River, Blue Raster produced a StoryMap called Highlights of the Ohio for the project launch. The StoryMap features points of interest along the river and the watershed region.

The Good River News Partners will be publishing multiple stories from November 2019 through January 2020. To follow along with the project and share stories or questions, text OHIO to 412-528-6575. Additionally, you can follow #OhioRiverStories on social media.

Good River: Stories of the Ohio is a series about the environment, economy, and culture of the Ohio River watershed, produced by seven nonprofit newsrooms. To see more, please visit ohiowatershed.org.

 

To learn more about StoryMaps, you can start here.

Global Forest Watch Fires: New Fire Monitoring Capabilities

Thousands of fires are burning in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil - the most intense blazes for almost a decade. Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW Fires), an online platform for monitoring and responding to forest and land fires, provides a near real-time view into the current fire activity. Additionally, users can view fire reports and compare historical data on regions all over the world.

GFW Fires Report

New Updates to GFW Fires

Blue Raster recently worked to add new features and capabilties to the Global Forest Watch Fires application. Want to see details for a specific area on the map? Draw or upload a shapefile to calculate fire counts and subscribe to alerts. Users can select specific areas and see the calculated numbers of VIIRS and MODIS Alerts in the past 24 hours. Next, users can click on the drawn or uploaded shapes on the map to subscribe to alerts for that area.

Global Forest Watch Fire Reports provide robust insight into fire history, cumulative fires to date, and a statistical analysis by administrative boundaries within a country or around the world. New to GFW Fires, users can now view charts of unusual fire activity. The report compares fires from the current week to the same week in the previous 16 years. In addition, new charts analyze fire activity in Palm Oil Concessions and Wood Fiber Areas.

Global Forest Watch Fires Report
Fire alerts in the Amazonas region of Brazil.

In addition to the basemap imagery, Global Forest Watch Fires now provides an option for Sentinal Imagery. The latest satellite imagery is available from Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8. Sentinel-2, operated by the European Space Agency, has global coverage in 10-meter resolution, and can obtain updated imagery every 10 days.

Global Forest Watch Fires Sentinal Imagery

By using the latest geospatial technology, Global Forest Watch Fires allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world. Users can monitor fire activity, sign up to receive alerts, or share their own stories on GFW's blog. Explore this interactive map today.


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