An Environmental Assessment of School Shade Tree Canopy and Implications for Sun Safety Policies: The Los Angeles Unified School District

isprsISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 2015, 4(2), 607-625

By April Moreno, John Tangenberg, Brian N. Hilton, and June K. Hilton

“In an effort to reforest school sites with limited resources, communities and non-profits have implemented projects on Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school sites, often without thought for the best location, long-term maintenance, or appropriateness of the tree type. Although studies exist related to sun safety policies in schools, there has been little emphasis on the environmental public health benefits of trees in public schools. The LAUSD School Shade Tree Canopy Study was a response to this issue in which data was analyzed (a total of 33,729 trees in the LAUSD were mapped) regarding tree canopy coverage, pervious/impervious areas, and buildings for 509 elementary schools to assess urban forestry management issues and environmental injustices within communities of the district.”

Website showing map layers, data, and report access.

Website showing map layers, data, and report access.

“The results of these analyses indicate that there is a wide range of school site size, tree canopy coverage as a percentage of school site size, tree canopy coverage as a percentage of play area, and percentage of unpaved surface play areas (e.g., (~20%) of the schools have both (0.0%) tree canopy coverage play areas and 100% paved surfaces). This finding alone has implications in how the LAUSD may implement sun safe polices which would aid in preventing skin cancer and other adverse health outcomes for students within the school district.”

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Sustainable Development under Population Pressure: Lessons from Developed Land Consumption in the Conterminous U.S.

PLOS One, Published Online 25 March 2015

By George Grekousis and Giorgos Mountrakis

“Population growth will result in a significant anthropogenic environmental change worldwide through increases in developed land (DL) consumption. DL consumption is an important environmental and socioeconomic process affecting humans and ecosystems. Attention has been given to DL modeling inside highly populated cities. However, modeling DL consumption should expand to non-metropolitan areas where arguably the environmental consequences are more significant. Here, we study all counties within the conterminous U.S. and based on satellite-derived product (National Land Cover Dataset 2001) we calculate the associated DL for each county. By using county population data from the 2000 census we present a comparative study on DL consumption and we propose a model linking population with expected DL consumption.

County relative DL consumption ranking contrasted with 100 counties of similar population.

County relative DL consumption ranking contrasted with 100 counties of similar population.

“Results indicate distinct geographic patterns of comparatively low and high consuming counties moving from east to west. We also demonstrate that the relationship of DL consumption with population is mostly linear, altering the notion that expected population growth will have lower DL consumption if added in counties with larger population. Added DL consumption is independent of a county’s starting population and only dependent on whether the county belongs to a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). In the overlapping MSA and non-MSA population range there is also a constant DL efficiency gain of approximately 20km2 for a given population for MSA counties which suggests that transitioning from rural to urban counties has significantly higher benefits in lower populations. In addition, we analyze the socioeconomic composition of counties with extremely high or low DL consumption. High DL consumption counties have statistically lower Black/African American population, higher poverty rate and lower income per capita than average in both NMSA and MSA counties. Our analysis offers a baseline to investigate further land consumption strategies in anticipation of growing population pressures.”

URISA GISCorps Volunteers Respond to the Call for Typhoon Pam

URISATwenty-two GISCorps volunteers responded to the call for Typhoon Pam, which devastated the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13, 2015.  The Digital Humanitarian Network was activated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and member organizations formed interdisciplinary teams to quickly monitor, process, and analyze incoming information from social media.  GISCorps partnered with Humanity Road and PeaceGeeks to provide spatial context to social media input, resulting in data and maps to share with the humanitarian community.

Examples of these data can be seen in two maps created within Esri ArcGIS Online:

The GISCorps team was led by Heather Milton, with additional coordination and technical support from Carol Kraemer and David Litke in the five-day around-the-clock online operation.  Volunteers assisted with geo-locating needed information and creating the maps. The GISCorps team utilized Skype, Google Apps, and ArcGIS Online for the effort.


About URISA’s GISCorps: A program of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) since 2003, GISCorps coordinates short term, volunteer GIS services to underprivileged communities worldwide. Our services support humanitarian relief, community development, local capacity building, health and education. GISCorps is run by a Core Committee who e-meet monthly but e-communicate daily. Since its inception, GISCorps has attracted over 3,450 volunteers from 96 countries. To date, GISCorps has deployed 664 volunteers (from 47 countries) to 160 missions in 56 countries around the globe. These volunteers have contributed over 20,000 working hours towards those missions. For more information, visit

[Source: URISA news release]

Senators Hatch and Warner introduce bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

5789846903_272868e5e3_bWashington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and John Warner, D-VA, issued the following statements after introducing the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act.

U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and Mark Warner, D-VA, issued the following statements after introducing the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act.

Sen. Hatch said, “The federal government wastes vast amounts of taxpayer dollars by not properly managing and coordinating our federal investments in geospatial data. This commonsense legislation will improve coordination, reduce duplication, and promote data transparency.”

“Geospatial data has endless possibilities for transforming both the private and public sectors — from helping local governments develop emergency preparedness plans to fueling the creation of apps that let you find parking spots, restaurants, and even homes for sale based on where you’re standing,” said Sen. Warner. “The federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data but some very basic questions about how and where agencies are already investing in this data can’t be answered. Our bill would bring transparency and accountability to the collection of this data and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted on duplicative efforts.”

Shelby D. Johnson, President of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) said, “People believe that the United States of America has a robust system of maps and digital data. We don’t, but we should. The federal government was never given the tools to do the job right. This Act is a good step toward solving the problems, and our members strongly support it. We also applaud Senator Hatch and Senator Warner for their foresight in dealing with this problem.”

Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, said, “GIS data is an important tool for counties when it comes to making land use decisions, maintaining infrastructure, and responding to emergencies. We support this bill because counties need accurate, modern mapping data to perform key duties and deliver services to their residents. We commend Senators Hatch and Warner for introducing this legislation and urge their colleagues to join them in supporting it.


Geospatial data is the information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features, such as wells, roads, or forests. The federal government has recognized the need to organize and coordinate the collection and management of this data since at least 1990, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) most recently revised Circular A-16 to establish the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and to promote the coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data nationwide. Unfortunately the progress made over the last two decades has been inadequate. The federal government needs to improve management of geospatial data across the board.

The Geospatial Data Act will codify and strengthen OMB Circular A-16 and require federal agencies to implement international consensus standards, assist in eliminating duplication, avoid redundant expenditures, accelerate the development of electronic government to meet the needs and expectations of citizens and agency programmatic mandates, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public management.

Additionally, the bill will provide a clear definition for geospatial data and metadata, will require an accounting of the costs associated with the acquisition or creation of geospatial data, and will improve government transparency and availability to public information.

Following requests from Senators Hatch, Warner, Risch, and Carper, the Government Accountability Office recently published their third report on the issue, entitled “Geospatial Data—Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts.” The report outlined the intrinsic value of geospatial data, and recommended various measures for better coordination of geospatial activities.


Protected areas in Borneo may fail to conserve tropical forest biodiversity under climate change

405853Biological Conservation, Volume 184, April 2015, Pages 414–423

By Sarah A. Scriven, Jenny A. Hodgson, Colin J. McClean, and Jane K. Hill

“Protected areas (PAs) are key for conserving rainforest species, but many PAs are becoming increasingly isolated within agricultural landscapes, which may have detrimental consequences for the forest biota they contain. We examined the vulnerability of PA networks to climate change by examining connectivity of PAs along elevation gradients. We used the PA network on Borneo as a model system, and examined changes in the spatial distribution of climate conditions in future. A large proportion of PAs will not contain analogous climates in future (based on temperature projections for 2061–2080), potentially requiring organisms to move to cooler PAs at higher elevation, if they are to track climate changes.

Map of Borneo showing location of refuge (n = 30) and source PAs (n = 210). Source PAs are shaded according to the minimum dispersal ability required for individuals to successfully reach target PAs (assuming 100% forest cover in PAs, a population density of 125 individuals per 250 m forest grid cell and using RCP8.5 temperature projections).

Map of Borneo showing location of refuge (n = 30) and source PAs (n = 210). Source PAs are shaded according to the minimum dispersal ability required for individuals to successfully reach target PAs (assuming 100% forest cover in PAs, a population density of 125 individuals per 250 m forest grid cell and using RCP8.5 temperature projections).

“For the highest warming scenario (RCP8.5), few (11–12.5%; 27–30/240) PAs were sufficiently topographically diverse for analogous climate conditions (present-day equivalent or cooler) to remain in situ. For the remaining 87.5–89% (210–213/240) of PAs, which were often situated at low elevation, analogous climate will only be available in higher elevation PAs. However, over half (60–82%) of all PAs on Borneo are too isolated for poor dispersers (<1 km per generation) to reach cooler PAs, because there is a lack of connecting forest habitat. Even under the lowest warming scenario (RCP2.6), analogous climate conditions will disappear from 61% (146/240) of PAs, and a large proportion of these are too isolated for poor dispersers to reach cooler PAs. Our results suggest that low elevation PAs are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and management to improve linkage of PAs along elevation gradients should be a conservation priority.”

Enabling Big Geoscience Data Analytics with a Cloud-Based, MapReduce-Enabled and Service-Oriented Workflow Framework

PLOS ONE, Published 05 March 5 2015

By Zhenlong Li, Chaowei Yang , Baoxuan Jin, Manzhu Yu, Kai Liu, Min Sun, and Matthew Zhan

“Geoscience observations and model simulations are generating vast amounts of multi-dimensional data. Effectively analyzing these data are essential for geoscience studies. However, the tasks are challenging for geoscientists because processing the massive amount of data is both computing and data intensive in that data analytics requires complex procedures and multiple tools. To tackle these challenges, a scientific workflow framework is proposed for big geoscience data analytics. In this framework techniques are proposed by leveraging cloud computing, MapReduce, and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

 Framework architecture.

Framework architecture.

“Specifically, HBase is adopted for storing and managing big geoscience data across distributed computers. MapReduce-based algorithm framework is developed to support parallel processing of geoscience data. And service-oriented workflow architecture is built for supporting on-demand complex data analytics in the cloud environment. A proof-of-concept prototype tests the performance of the framework. Results show that this innovative framework significantly improves the efficiency of big geoscience data analytics by reducing the data processing time as well as simplifying data analytical procedures for geoscientists.”

Geographic Information System in a Multi-Criteria Tool for Mariculture Site Selection

Coastal Management

Coastal Management, published online 13 February 2015

By Joana Micael, Ana C. Costa, Paula Aguiar, António Medeiros, and Helena Calado

“The continuous growth in fish consumption and related activities is stressing the fishing industry worldwide. To counteract this, mariculture might represent an opportunity for consumers, industry and marine resource sustainability, as long as careful site selection is taken into consideration. The current study was developed to assess potential sites for the implementation of marine fish-cage industries on the Azores Archipelago (North Atlantic), through the application of a multi-criteria approach based on geographic information. Descriptors that may have either direct or indirect influences on the development of mariculture activity in the Azores were discriminated into factors and constraints and grouped into environmental, socioeconomic, and administrative categories.

Overall suitability map for offshore mariculture implementation in the waters around S˜ao Miguel.

Overall suitability map for offshore mariculture implementation in the waters around Sao

“Factors were weighted and data integrated using geographic information system (GIS) methods. Suitability maps were generated and a total area of 17.7 km2 was identified as suitable for mariculture in Sao Miguel Island, segmented into different option levels. This multiple criteria approach provides the information necessary for stakeholders to realize the effects of each descriptor in possible implementation sites for mariculture. This will be a useful tool to improve environmental planning, management and decision-making for mariculture activities.”