GIS and conservation biology

Thanks to “a tree lover” in the introductory GIS course for this post.

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park has an informative and interactive website concerning the use of GIS in conservation biology. Of particular interest, is a project called World forests: Biases in forest protection across world biomes. This project aims to assess the decline and protection of forests across the major biomes – temperate, boreal and tropical. The GIS application they created contained layers such as the estimate of the original coverage of forest, the current protected areas, and the modern forested area.

With this application they could then answers 3 questions :

  1. Did deforestation in past centuries differ among major global biomes-the boreal, temperate, and tropics? The GIS allowed them to determine that temperate forests declined the most (by 65%), followed by tropical forests (45%) and then by boreal forests (13%).
  2. How much forest remains in boreal, temperate and tropic zones? Of the total remaining forests in the world, 51% are in the tropical zones, 45% in the boreal zone and only 4% in the temperate zones.
  3. What is the degree of protection in these biomes relative to the degree of threat? Less than 5% of the remaining temperate forests are currently protected, for boreal forests the proportion is less than 4%, and for tropical forest more than 15%.

It is possible to see the resulting GIS application and even to use some of the tools of GIS (e.g., identify, query, and measure) with the conservation atlas of the Smithsonian Institute. We can see from these GIS results that more efforts must be directed towards protecting areas of the temperate forests.

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