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Tag: ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Bringing Transparency to Transboundary Water Policy in the Mekong River Basin

From its headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong River runs through six countries, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia before reaching the ocean. Over 60 million people live in the Mekong watershed and rely on its natural resources and fish and agricultural products produced here are shipped throughout the world. However, recent evidence indicates that the operation of new upstream dams constructed in China are changing the natural flow cycle of the river, affecting downstream communities.

mekong dam monitor

In spring 2020 a U.S. State Department-supported study by independent researchers at Eyes on Earth published a study showing that the upstream dams restricted enormous quantities of water in 2019, while downstream areas were experiencing an unprecedented drought. The newly launched Mekong Dam Monitor builds on that research to provide unprecedented transparency of the flow of water and conditions of dams and reservoirs along the Mekong River. The application was developed through a partnership between the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program and Eyes on Earth, Inc with funding from the Mekong-US Partnership, and the Chino Cienega Foundation.

The Monitor includes multiple tools and indicators in a single platform, giving a comprehensive near-real time view of the current state of the Mekong basin along with historic conditions. Users can explore detailed information about dozens of dams and Impact Areas, including viewing satellite imagery, weekly reservoir level (meters above sea level), and inundated area, all estimated from remotely sensed data in the Virtual Gauges page. One tab over, the Lancang Cascade visualization shows the weekly state of water retention and power generation in each of China’s 11 upstream dam cascade. Just two dams in the cascade, Xiaowan and Nuozhadu can collectively hold nearly as much water as the Chesapeake Bay.

The Natural Flow Model visualizations leverage analysis by Eyes on Earth that predict the expected water in the Mekong River based on temperature and precipitation data derived from satellite imagery. These values are compared to actual flow rates measured at two locations by the Mekong Water Commission. The expected and measured flow rates diverge starting in 2012 with extreme differences in 2019 and 2020 when very little of the expected water from the rainy season passed the downstream gauges.

Additional data on climate anomalies, such as precipitation, snow cover, and temperature allow users to compare current and historic maps from 1992 to the present. Finally, the Basin Wide Dams and Connectivity page builds on the success of the Stimson Center’s Mekong Infrastructure Tracker Dashboard and provides comprehensive information about hydropower development in the region. This includes information about dam developers, financers, energy generation, and more.

mekong river basin

The Mekong Dam Monitor was developed using the Esri JavaScript API and leverages data hosted in ArcGIS Online as well as ArcGIS Image Server.

Nearly all data shown in the Monitor is available for download for transparency. With this tool, stakeholders and policy makers will have a greater ability to anticipate environmental and social impacts of dam operations, adopt evidence-based policies for managing the Mekong River, and participate in transboundary river governance.

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.

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