Vizzuality and Geostatistical Methods that Combat Deforestation and Species Extinction

Features

  • Author: Lillian Pierson
  • Date: 31 May 2013
  • Copyright: First image appears courtesy of iStock Photo

The geographic information systems (GIS) industry has been largely dominated by ESRI proprietary software. Before the development of sophisticated open-source GIS tools, if you wanted to make a digital map or perform spatial analysis then you would have to purchase the costly ESRI software and possibly a few extensions or add-ons to help you get the job done.

When you did manage to complete the analysis, there was no way to reconstruct what was done by looking at the output. As open source tools have matured there are more GIS alternatives available, but the tools are still difficult to use and, before CartoDB, there was no one-fits-all solution.

thumbnail image: Vizzuality and Geostatistical Methods that Combat Deforestation and Species Extinction

CartoDB was designed to combine some of the best open source GIS technologies into one flexible platform. Key features of the CartoDB software allow its users to quickly and easily generate maps that are more brilliant and eye-catching than those generally created with proprietary GIS software. What’s more, you don’t have to be an experienced GIS practitioner to use CartoDB.

This is a story about how the founders of Vizzuality and CartoDB are using their products to perform advanced spatial statistics that offer solutions to challenging environmental problems associated with deforestation and species extinction. 

Vizzuality Supports the World Resources Institute and IUCN to Combat Deforestation and Species Extinction

Vizzuality is currently working with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to make deforestation transparent by developing a platform to visualize deforestation on a near real-time basis. This work is part of Global Forest Watch 2.0 (GFW2), a WRI monitoring system that is slated to launch in late 2013.

Vizzuality is using CartoDB in this project to create an interactive map of large-scale time-series data that provides insights on environmental metrics that surround deforestation. The interactivity of the map output makes this data visualization more like a location intelligence dashboard than a map, per se.

Figure 1: Global Forest Watch 2.0 Demo

In addition, Vizzuality is also working on a project to offer biodiversity analytics and informatics to support Red List species extinction threat assessments for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In this project Vizzuality and its partner Kew Gardens have utilized CartoDB technology to develop a Geospatial Conservation Assessment Tool (GeoCAT) that is hosted on the cloud, designed to integrate into the Red List website, and available to remote users for real-time collaboration.

The data analysis methodologies that support each map in GeoCAT are stored with the output in a sharable format, so that collaborators can easily see and recreate the analyses. 

The Statistics Behind Global Forest Watch 2.0 and GeoCAT

World Resource Institute’s Global Forest Watch 2.0 will rely upon remote sensing, ground-truthing, and crowd-sourcing. Remote sensing of satellite imagery, in turn, employs spatial statistics that address image classification. Spatial structures are estimated by variograms, interpolations, and sampling.

Spatial statistics in remote sensing utilize a conditional autoregressive (CAR) model and point processes to represent model occurrences. Geostatistical methods are used to derive area statistics from point data. These sets of data and methodologies will be carried out on a global scale in order to generate map and statistics for deforestation rates and for the monitoring of related environmental parameters.

Since it is a web-hosted platform for the transparency of deforestation, you can expect to be able to access and view the results in near real-time at the GFW2 website once the product has been launched.

The GeoCAT tool utilizes the Torque library to efficiently visualize large-scale temporal data...in turn, (the library) makes use of a geospatial datacube format called, CartoCubes that makes mapping millions of dynamic points in the browser possible. It will display your spatial results in Google Maps and output the set of statistics that the tool generated from your data.

The GeoCAT tool utilizes some of the same geostatistical methods as GFW2, but it does not incorporate remote sensing. Rather, GeoCAT relies on user-generated data. The IUCN has defined five metrics against which species should be examined to determine extinction risk. Through CartoDB, users can digitally derive data on these metrics through geospatial analysis of extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO). Users simply go to the GeoCAT tool website, start a project, upload or manually add occurrence data, and run the one-click EOO/AOO tool. The tool then runs geostatistical methods on the data set to derive area statistics from the point data. The GeoCAT tool utilizes the Torque library (http://github.com/CartoDB/torque) to efficiently visualize large-scale temporal data in the browser. The torque library, in turn, makes use of a geospatial datacube format called, CartoCubes that makes mapping millions of dynamic points in the browser possible. It will display your spatial results in Google Maps and output the set of statistics that the tool generated from your data. The project can be saved for further development or for partner collaboration. The spatial and statistical data that is generated is also used to support the Red Listing process.


Figure 2: GeoCAT EOO and AOO Calculations

These are just two examples of projects in which Vizzuality is involved. They are also working on projects with NASA, UNEP, WCMC, Google, Yale University, and Zooniverse, just to name a few. If you would like to see more information about how Vizzuality is using CartoDB and open source GIS methodologies to change the world in remarkable ways, then please visit the Vizzuality website.

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