Our Work

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Climate

Protecting Indigenous & Community Lands With LandMark

Blue Raster is pleased to work with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on a recent initiative to release new datasets and tools on LandMark– an online, global platform providing maps on Indigenous and Community Lands. The new analysis features and data focus on measuring the impacts Indigenous Peoples have on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Landmark Tree Cover Loss Analysis

LandMark Tree Cover Loss Analysis

According to a recent study, Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 24% (54,546 MtC) of the total carbon stored above ground in the world’s tropical forests, a sum greater than 250 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global air travel in 2015. Additionally, Indigenous Lands that are legally recognized experience rates of deforestation that are two to three times lower than non-tenure secure lands, according to Peter Veit, director of WRI’s Land and Resource Rights Initiative.

“The new data and analysis features on LandMark take the platform to a new level by not just showing the presence and legal situation of indigenous and community lands, but also their specific contributions to protecting the environment and the threats that they face from outside pressures such as deforestation, concessions, infrastructure development, and more.”

Katie Reytar, a research associate with WRI’s forest program.

Now, anyone can calculate the amount of tree cover loss in specific Indigenous and Community Lands on-the-fly, and learn more information including land cover composition and tree cover density. Additional datasets on the site include:

Landmark Custom Analysis

  • Intact Forest Landscape and Soil Organic Carbon
  • Pressures, including Mining and Oil Palm concessions, and Major dams
  • Land Cover & Change, including annual Tree cover loss and gain all available on a global scale at 30m x 30m resolution

To build the updated site, Blue Raster harnessed the power of ArcGIS Online, an entirely web-based mapping platform that allows organizational access to datasets. By leveraging ArcGIS Online, WRI can add, remove, or edit maps in a matter of minutes and publish their changes instantaneously.

Blue Raster also leveraged WRI’s Global Forest Watch MapBuilder application template to overhaul the design of the map. The map features an improved user-friendly navigation and analysis pane. The MapBuilder template allows anyone with an ArcGIS Online account to turn custom maps into interactive web applications. As part of the project, additional functionality was imported into the MapBuilder core, all of which is formally written in the documentation for anyone to add their own customizations to the template.

See LandMark’s new tools and datasets at www.landmarkmap.org.

Danger in the Air: UNICEF

Blue Raster collaborated with The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help produce Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children. Leveraging the analysis pioneered during a recent study with UNICEF regarding air pollution, Blue Raster and UNICEF used satellite imagery of outdoor air pollution in combination with global demographic data to determine that 17 million babies under the age of 1 breathe toxic air, with the majority living in South Asia. The report also highlights why young children are the most vulnerable to the impact of air pollution.

Air pollution is a critical health issue to people all over the world. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution due to their physiology: their lungs are still developing, and exposure to harmful air during this critical period can be especially detrimental, causing life-threatening diseases. A growing number of studies are even pointing to the impacts of air pollution on a cognitive development. They note that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development – with lifelong implications and setbacks.

UNICEF has made its mission protecting and empowering children around the world. With Blue Raster’s help, UNICEF identified the youngest children who are most vulnerable to the dangers of air pollution, and promotes a greater understanding of this issue among governments, communities, and families. Further geospatial analysis can help us identify trends, pinpoint sources of pollution, and create plans for reducing pollution in the future.

“Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs – they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children. It is also benefits their societies – realized in reduced health care costs, increased productivity and a safer, cleaner environment for everyone.”

Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director 

Thirsting for a Future: UNICEF

Blue Raster collaborated with The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help produce Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate. In a targeted study of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene using current climate and projected climate conditions, Blue Raster and UNICEF determined that by 2040, nearly 600 million children are projected to be living in areas of extremely high water stress. The report also highlights that increasing droughts and floods threaten quality and quantity of water.

As UNICEF puts it best: “No one suffers more from a change in climate than a child. Their small bodies are vulnerable to the changes in the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat. For many children, a change in climate is felt through a change in water. In times of drought or flood, in areas where the sea level has risen or ice and snow have unseasonably melted, children are at risk, as the quality and quantity of water available to them is under threat. When disasters strike, they destroy or disrupt the water and sanitation services that children rely on.”

Blue Raster has (once again!) done an incredible job helping to conduct the analysis for this report. Their professionalism and technical sophistication continues to exceed expectations. In the face of incredible challenges now and in the decades to come, Blue Raster has helped us make the case for protecting children’s access to safe water and sanitation.

— Nicholas Rees, Policy Analysis Specialist, UNICEF New York

With Blue Raster’s help, UNICEF identified the children who are most vulnerable to the dangers of flooding and water stress. Geospatial analysis using ArcGIS Desktop helped to inform plans to mitigate current and future risk to children.

Visualizing Evolution of Atmospheric Deposition

Blue Raster launches the Critical Loads Mapper for the Environmental Protection Agency, the latest tool in a collection of EPA’s Global-Change-Explorer platform. This interactive web application analyzes atmospheric deposition from Nitrogen and Sulfur. Despite abundance in atmosphere and aquatic ecosystems, an excess of Nitrogen can cause significant environmental and health issues, leading to economic impacts across communities. Sulfur, when compounded to form various Sulfur Oxides, can cause health and respiratory problems, damage foliage, and create haze. Working with EPA, Blue Raster created a consolidated source of information, allowing the study of these elements within our ecosystem across a variety of models and timelines.

EPA’s Critical Loads Mapper incorporates a collection of four different respected scientific research efforts, including the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP),  the Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAQ), Total Deposition Science Committee (TDEP), and the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Each group of deposition estimates offers information on a variety of time spans, with some as early as 1851. Concentrations of these pollutants are predicted in deposition models which can help us better understand ecosystems at risk for exceedance of Nitrogen and Sulfur pollution.

In the application, you can overlay Federal lands and Wilderness areas from the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the US Forest Service. In our next release, users will be able to generate Deposition and Exceedance Profiles specific to each area.

With over 500 display options, the Critical Loads Mapper makes it easier for researchers, policy makers, and public officials to access this data, and create styled maps that can be saved, exported, or printed directly from the browser.

The Critical Loads Mapper is optimized to run at high performance, and leverages the ArcGIS Image Server for raster visualization and analysis. In addition, the application is built using Knockout, a JavaScript library that renders JSON (data) objects into html, for a simpler and more dynamic user interface experience. HTML5 Canvas, an html element, is the backbone for all of the on-the-fly printing capabilities. Each component of the application works to support the immense data being supplied while providing a user interface and user experience that is easily navigable and reliable.

TNC Story Map: Planting Healthy Air

By 2050, the majority of humanity will live in cities, towns, and other urban areas. Among the most pressing of global urban environmental challenges is air quality. In cities, the most damaging air pollutant is particulate matter (PM), but another pressing problem cities face is heat: the air is simply so hot in summer that human health is impacted. At the same time, with climate change, increasing temperatures around the world are exacerbating excess heat produced by cities and causing dangerous heat waves.

To address this concern for the future, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) investigated the effect of planting trees in urban areas. The science is clear that tree leaves play a part in removing particulate matter from the atmosphere along with many other air pollutants. Also, the shade provided by urban trees along with the transpiration of water during photosynthesis can help reduce air temperatures, while also reducing electricity needed for residential cooling. From an economic perspective, TNC found planting trees produces a significant return on investment when planted strategically in certain areas of a city.

17_trees_remove_pollution_1To determine precisely where and how much trees can help, The Nature Conservancy collected geospatial information on forest and land cover, PM2.5 pollutant concentration, and population density for 245 cities and used relationships established in the literature to estimate the scope of current and future street trees needed to make urban air healthier. The resultant report, titled “Planting Healthy Air,” advises cities on where trees offer the highest return on investment for improving public health by addressing particulate matter and excess heat.

To help visualize this data and share this story, TNC came to Blue Raster for help creating an interactive story map built on the latest Esri technology. The Planting Healthy Air story map details the project’s motivation, visualizes its geographic data and geospatial analysis, and describes a simple plan for cities to reduce pollution and temperature by planting trees. The viewer can select a section of interest or scroll through all of them, exploring and interacting with maps. Viewers can see neighborhood-level analysis in any of the 245 cities included in the report or read in-depth remarks about one of 15 focus cities.

tncstorymap_benefitsoftrees

Built on ArcGIS Online, the Planting Healthy Air story map uses Cascade, a new template designed for immersive storytelling. The story map’s interactive format allows viewers to explore the data and analysis on their own terms and get personalized information about the places that matter to them.

“Thanks to Blue Raster for all their hard work. We’re really excited about this new resource for sharing our science!”

– Misty Edgecomb, Director of Communications, Global Cities, The Nature Conservancy

Read more on this exciting project at: https://global.nature.org/content/healthyair


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