Risks to Southern U.S. Forests Highlighted on New Online Mapping System

A new online system that maps a rich trove of environmental data of southern U.S. forests onto satellite images from the past 35 years was launched today by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The system, located at SeeSouthernForests.org, highlights risks to these forests such as pest and pathogen outbreaks, active wildfires, potential climate change impacts, and forest conversion to suburban development – the leading cause of southern U.S. forest loss in recent decades. The system also maps other features such as the region’s protected areas and forest ownership.

“SeeSouthernForests.org is a first-of-its-kind one-stop shop for map-based information about southern forests,” said Craig Hanson, director of WRI’s People & Ecosystems Program. “We have pulled together the power of GoogleEarth, Microsoft’s Bing Maps, NASA satellite images, ESRI technology, and a wide variety of forest data to raise awareness about the benefits of southern forests and the challenges they face.”

The system is the first step in a multiyear WRI project, Southern Forests for the Future, aimed at helping landowners, conservation organizations, and others ensure the ability of these forests to continue providing a range of benefits – called “ecosystem services” – to people.

“At a time when the world is concerned about climate change, freshwater availability, the economy and jobs, southern forests are part of the answer,” said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. “The pattern of forest cover loss in this region has been acres here and acres there. Continuous but dispersed change often goes unnoticed. This new online system addresses that.”

Stretching from Texas to Virginia and from Kentucky to Florida, the southern U.S. forests are among the world’s most biologically diverse temperate forests. Though they comprise just two percent of the planet’s forest cover, they underpin hundreds of thousands of jobs and produce more pulp for paper by volume than any single nation – other than the entire United States.

In addition, they supply other ecosystem services, such as watershed protection, recreation, and carbon storage.

“A lot of focus in global climate change discussions to date has been on tropical rainforests,” said Susan Minnemeyer, a WRI senior associate. “But U.S. forests are important too. When domestic forest acreage declines, the nation’s carbon sink shrinks.”

The future of these forests mostly rests in the hands of private landowners. Approximately 27 percent of southern forest acreage is held by companies and financial institutions while another 60 percent is owned by individuals and families. But three-quarters of these family forests are owned by people 55 years of age and older. A generational transfer is on the horizon.

“In many ways, the next 20 years will shape the fate of southern forests,” said Todd Gartner, manager of Conservation Incentives at the American Forest Foundation. “Surveys indicate that most families want to pass their forests on to the next generation. However, with increasing development pressure, market-based incentives are needed to ensure that private forests remain as forests.”

WRI’s new online mapping system can help forest landowners in the South see the history of their forests through satellite images and better understand the forces of change affecting their properties. It also showcases examples of successful approaches for owners who want to retain their forests.

“SeeSouthernForests.org will be really helpful when engaging a community and working with local landowners regarding forest conservation and sustainable management,” said Tom Bancroft, chief scientist at the Audubon Society. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, satellite images and a good map are worth 10,000.”

“We hope the site will raise awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of southern forests and put important information at people’s fingertips,” said Patricia Pineda of Toyota, which is sponsoring WRI’s work as part of the company’s commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative.

“We were thrilled that Toyota and WRI committed to launch SeeSouthernForests.org at the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting last year,” said Robert S. Harrison, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative. “We hope this site will empower more and more people to appreciate southern forests and the benefits they provide to people in the region and beyond.”

[Source: World Resources Institute press release]

A Semantic Registry Using a Feature Type Catalogue Instead of Ontologies to Support Spatial Data Infrastructures

International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Volume 24, Issue 2 February 2010 , pages 231 – 252

Kristin M. Stock; Rob Atkinson; Chris Higgins; Mark Small; Andrew Woolf; Keiran Millard; David Arctur

“The use of a semantically rich registry containing a Feature Type Catalogue (FTC) to represent the semantics of geographic feature types including operations, attributes and relationships between feature types is required to realise the benefits of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs). Specifically, such information provides a more complete representation of the semantics of the concepts used in the SDI, and enables advanced navigation, discovery and utilisation of discovered resources. The presented approach creates an FTC implementation in which attributes, associations and operations for a given feature type are encapsulated within the FTC, and these conceptual representations are separated from the implementation aspects of the web services that may realise the operations in the FTC. This differs from previous approaches that combine the implementation and conceptual aspects of behaviour in a web service ontology, but separate the behavioural aspects from the static aspects of the semantics of the concept or feature type. These principles are demonstrated by the implementation of such a registry using open standards. The ebXML Registry Information Model (ebRIM) was used to incorporate the FTC described in ISO 19110 by extending the Open Geospatial Consortium ebRIM Profile for the Web Catalogue Service (CSW) and adding a number of stored queries to allow the FTC component of the standards-compliant registry to be interrogated. The registry was populated with feature types from the marine domain, incorporating objects that conform to both the object and field views of the world. The implemented registry demonstrates the benefits of inheritance of feature type operations, attributes and associations, the ability to navigate around the FTC and the advantages of separating the conceptual from the implementation aspects of the FTC. Further work is required to formalise the model and include axioms to allow enhanced semantic expressiveness and the development of reasoning capabilities.”

Spatial-Temporal Combination of Variables for Monitoring Changes in Metropolitan Areas

Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, Volume 3, Number 1 / March 2010

Gustavo Garcia Manzato and Antônio Nélson Rodrigues da Silva

“The objective of this exploratory study is to present a new method for monitoring the dynamic changes of functional urban regions (FURs) or metropolitan areas (MAs) boundaries throughout time. The suggested approach is based on two elements: the population density and an index of transportation infrastructure supply, which are analyzed in two ways. First, we carry out exploratory analyses of those variables separately. Next, the variables are combined using spatial analysis and spatial modeling techniques. A case study in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, shows that the proposed methodology can be particularly useful for urban and regional planning in developing countries, because it stresses the relationship between land-use and transportation supply. So, given the evidence that urban and regional development is strongly influenced by the level of transportation infrastructure supply, the approach can be further improved if considering other elements of transportation infrastructure, such as airports, railways, ports, as well as additional factors which may have effects on land use patterns such as distribution of services and jobs where data is available.”