Predictive Mapping of Reef Fish Species Richness, Diversity and Biomass in Zanzibar using IKONOS Imagery and Machine-learning Techniques

Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 114, Issue 6, 15 June 2010, Pages 1230-1241

Anders Knudby, Ellsworth LeDrew, and Alexander Brenning

“During the last three decades, the large spatial coverage of remote sensing data has been used in coral reef research to map dominant substrate types, geomorphologic zones, and bathymetry. During the same period, field studies have documented statistical relationships between variables quantifying aspects of the reef habitat and its fish community. Although the results of these studies are ambiguous, some habitat variables have frequently been found to correlate with one or more aspects of the fish community. Several of these habitat variables, including depth, the structural complexity of the substrate, and live coral cover, are possible to estimate with remote sensing data. In this study, we combine a set of statistical and machine-learning models with habitat variables derived from IKONOS data to produce spatially explicit predictions of the species richness, biomass, and diversity of the fish community around two reefs in Zanzibar. In the process, we assess the ability of IKONOS imagery to estimate live coral cover, structural complexity and habitat diversity, and we explore the importance of habitat variables, at a range of spatial scales, in the predictive models using a permutation-based technique. Our findings indicate that structural complexity at a fine spatial scale (not,  vert, similar 5 to 10 m) is the most important habitat variable in predictive models of fish species richness and diversity, whereas other variables such as depth, habitat diversity, and structural complexity at coarser spatial scales contribute to predictions of biomass. In addition, our results demonstrate that complex model types such as tree-based ensemble techniques provide superior predictive performance compared to the more frequently used linear models, achieving a reduction of the cross-validated root-mean-squared prediction error of 3–11%. Although aerial photographs and airborne lidar instruments have recently been used to produce spatially explicit predictions of reef fish community variables, our study illustrates the possibility of doing so with satellite data. The ability to use satellite data may bring the cost of creating such maps within the reach of both spatial ecology researchers and the wide range of organizations involved in marine spatial planning.”

Spatial Heterogeneity in the Shrub Tundra Ecotone in the Mackenzie Delta Region, Northwest Territories: Implications for Arctic Environmental Change

Ecosystems, Volume 13, Number 2 / March, 2010

Trevor C. Lantz, Sarah E. Gergel and Steven V. Kokelj

“Growing evidence suggests that plant communities in the Low Arctic are responding to recent increases in air temperature. Changes to vegetation, particularly shifts in the abundance of upright shrubs, can influence surface energy balance (albedo), sensible and latent heat flux (evapotranspiration), snow conditions, and the ground thermal regime. Understanding fine-scale variability in vegetation across the shrub tundra ecotone is therefore essential as a monitoring baseline. In this article, we use object-based classifications of airphotos to examine changes in vegetation characteristics (cover and patch size) across a latitudinal gradient in the Mackenzie Delta uplands. This area is frequently mapped as homogenous vegetation, but it exhibits fine-scale variability in cover and patch size. Our results show that the total area and size of individual patches of shrub tundra decrease with increasing latitude. The gradual nature of this transition and its correlation with latitudinal variation in temperature suggests that the position of the shrub ecotone will be sensitive to continued warming. The impacts of vegetation structure on ecological processes make improved understanding of this heterogeneity critical to biophysical models of Low Arctic ecosystems.”

A Fuzzy Set Based Approach for Integration of Thematic Maps for Landslide Susceptibility Zonation

Georisk: Assessment and Management of Risk for Engineered Systems and Geohazards, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2009, Pages 30 – 43

D. P. Kanungo, M. K. Arora, S. Sarkar, and R. P. Gupta

“Spatial prediction of landslides is termed landslide susceptibility zonation (LSZ). In this study, an objective weighting approach based on fuzzy concepts is used for LSZ in a part of the Darjeeling Himalayas. Relevant thematic layers pertaining to landslide causative factors have been generated using remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) techniques. The membership values for each category of thematic layers have been determined using the cosine amplitude fuzzy similarity method and are used as ratings. The integration of these ratings led to the generation of LSZ map. The integration of different ratings to generate an LSZ map has been performed using a fuzzy gamma operator apart from the arithmetic overlay approach. The process is based on determination of combined rating known as the landslide susceptibility index (LSI) for all the pixels using the fuzzy gamma operator and classification using the success rate curve method to prepare the LSZ map. The results indicate that as the gamma value increases, the accuracy of the LSZ map also increases. It is observed that the LSZ map produced by the fuzzy algebraic sum has reflected a more real situation in terms of landslides in the study area.”

Learn to Make and Share High-Quality Maps Faster than Ever

Log In to an ESRI Live Training Seminar to Get an Overview of the New Features in ArcGIS 10 ArcMap

To introduce users to what’s new in ArcMap, ESRI will host the live training seminar Using ArcMap in ArcGIS Desktop 10. It will air at on Thursday, April 29, 2010, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. Pacific daylight time.

The seminar will introduce new features in ArcMap that will reduce time spent on common mapping tasks and improve the quality of map products. The instructor will demonstrate how to use these features to speed up workflows.

Attendees will learn about

  • Improvements to the ArcMap interface, including a new configurable, embedded Catalog window that allows users to customize and maximize their map view
  • New features to help users work faster, including an instant search tool and access to professionally designed online basemaps
  • Improved cartographic capabilities that enable data-driven queries to search for and highlight specific map features, streamlining the creation of custom maps from a map series, which can then be exported as PDFs
  • Additional resources for learning more about new features in ArcGIS 10

This live training seminar will help cartographers and other geographic information system (GIS) professionals who make maps understand how ArcMap in ArcGIS 10 will improve their workflow and productivity. A broadband Internet connection and an ESRI Global Account are needed to participate in the training seminar. Creating a global account is easy and free: visit, click Login, and register your name and address. A few weeks after the live presentation, this seminar will be archived and available for viewing on the ESRI Training Web site.

[Source: ESRI press release]

Detecting Negative Spatial Autocorrelation in Georeferenced Random Variables

International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Volume 24, Issue 3 March 2010 , pages 417 – 437

Daniel A. Griffith; Giuseppe Arbia

“Negative spatial autocorrelation refers to a geographic distribution of values, or a map pattern, in which the neighbors of locations with large values have small values, the neighbors of locations with intermediate values have intermediate values, and the neighbors of locations with small values have large values. Little is known about negative spatial autocorrelation and its consequences in statistical inference in general, and regression-based inference in particular, with spatial researchers to date concentrating mostly on understanding the much more frequently encountered case of positive spatial autocorrelation. What are the spatial contexts within which negative spatial autocorrelation should be readily found? What are its inferential consequences for regression models? This paper presents selected empirical examples of negative spatial autocorrelation, adding to the slowly growing literature about this phenomenon.”

Space–Time Geostatistics for Geography: A Case Study of Radiation Monitoring Across Parts of Germany

Geographical Analysis, Volume 42 Issue 2, Pages 161 – 179, Published Online 13 Apr 2010

Gerard B. M. Heuvelink and Daniel A. Griffith

“Many branches within geography deal with variables that vary not only in space but also in time. Therefore, conventional geostatistics needs to be extended with methods that estimate and quantify spatiotemporal variation and use it in spatiotemporal interpolation and stochastic simulation. This article briefly summarizes the main concepts of space–time geostatistics. Kriging in space and time can be done in much the same way as it is in a purely spatial setting. The main difficulties are in defining a realistic stochastic model that is assumed to have generated data and in characterizing and estimating the space–time correlation of that model. This article uses a model-based geostatistical approach to characterize space–time variability. The space–time variable of interest is treated as a sum of independent stationary spatial, temporal, and spatiotemporal components, which leads to a sum-metric space–time variogram model. Methods are illustrated with a case study of space–time interpolation of monthly averages of detected background radiation for a 5-year period in four German states.”

A New GIS Nitrogen Trading Tool Concept for Conservation and Reduction of Reactive Nitrogen Losses to the Environment

Advances in Agronomy, Volume 105, 2010, Chapter Chapter 4, Pages 117-171

J.A. Delgado, C.M. Gross, H. Lal, H. Cover, P. Gagliardi, S.P. McKinney, E. Hesketh, and M.J. Shaffer

“Nitrogen (N) inputs to agricultural systems are important for their sustainability. However, when N inputs are unnecessarily high, the excess can contribute to greater agricultural N losses that impact air, surface water, and groundwater quality. It is paramount to reduce off-site transport of N by using sound management practices. These practices could potentially be integrated with water and air quality markets, and new tools will be necessary to calculate potential nitrogen savings available for trade. The USDA-NRCS and USDA-ARS Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit developed a web-based and stand-alone Nitrogen Trading Tool (NTT) prototype. These prototypes have an easy-to-use interface where nitrogen management practices are selected for a given state and the NTT calculates the nitrogen trading potential compared to a given baseline. The stand-alone prototype can also be used to calculate potential savings in direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalents from practices that reduce N losses. These tools are powerful, versatile, and can run with the USA soil databases from NRCS (SSURGO) and NRCS climate databases. The NTT uses the NLEAP model, which is accurate at the field level and has GIS capabilities. Results indicate that the NTT was able to evaluate management practices for Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia, and that it could be used to quickly conduct assessments of nitrogen savings that can potentially be traded for direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalents in national and international water and air quality markets. These prototypes could facilitate determining ideal areas to implement management practices that will mitigate N losses in hot spots and provide benefits in trading.”

News from The GIS Institute: GIS Training Fundraiser

Long Caye, Belize – April 23, 2010 – Happy Earth Day (Yesterday)

Hello Friends – Much happening simultaneously for me at The GIS Institute this season – I’m working three main fronts; 1) a new training class now available to help fund this non-profit GIS work, 2) we have just successfully completed the process to create a preserve in Belize, and 3) I am continuing my support of plastic marine pollution awareness in our oceans. I feel like I am becoming adept at working on these volunteer projects, creating a new day job, and maintaining serenity…

In this newsletter, our primary focus is the fundraiser we are holding to teach the final version of our ArcGIS for Natural Resources and Field Conservation training class. Also a quick report about the preserve on Long Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Belize, and news from SeaLife Conservation picking up plastic marine debris under the Golden Gate Bridge this month. Thanks for reading!

Spring Fundraiser – We are teaching GIS classes!

We now have the final release of the ArcGIS class that Jack Dangermond & ESRI donated to The GIS Institute. Here’s the basic info for the initial fundraiser we are holding to raise money in support of my continued non-profit GIS work and to get the course into circulation.

The course is titled: Introduction to ArcGIS for Natural Resources and Field Conservation. A three-day version is standard, and fourth and/or fifth day modules are available. The course description and outline can be found at

Special limited-time pricing for spring fundraiser: $6k for the 3-day on-site course* or, three presentations of this course anywhere in the continental US for $16k* – tough to beat that for any Instructor-led on-site training!

Additional info:

– 12 Students per course: two additional students OK at $750/ea
*Must be scheduled and 25% deposit paid by May 31, 2010 Courses must run by September 30, 2010 – First come, first served availability. Other payment options available, ETF Payment approved, check or Credit Card OK. Full payment preferred at course completion.
** alternative geographic location and combination proposals are welcome
– Workbooks included, with course data.
– Certificates for successful completion.
– Authored by Drew Stephens and ESRI – a fun and rigorous course, led by Drew Stephens only!

Also this option: Gather yourselves and co-op! Find a training room anywhere in the continental US, pick a date, and guarantee seven students at $750/ea ($5250), I will open the remaining seats to additional students at that price, paid directly to The GIS Institute online on a per person basis.

I will be releasing a schedule of classes open to individuals next week.

Thanks again everyone – I appreciate the confidence and support you’ve provided over the years. I truly hope we can work together this year to bring GIS to your organization, and that these effort fuel conservation and humanitarian related GIS into the future.

In Belize

we have a significant success story! The Belizean government has granted preliminary approval of our proposal to create a 250 acre preserve on Long Caye, the privately held island we have been researching and mapping for the last two years on Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The approval action will protect forty percent of the 600 acres on Long Caye from development, which includes all of the internal lagoon and surroundings, along with over 6,000 of 35,000 feet of virgin mangrove coastline. The preserve may eventually become a related component of the Belizean National Park System, though it is too early to know.

Blake Ross, co-owner of Long Caye, says “The GIS Institute has played a critical role in the process of delineating the preserve…the use of GIS not only made it certain that we were delineating the right areas, it helped us share the story with all stakeholders in the process.”

On behalf of The GIS Institute, I facilitated the acquisition of a beautiful cloud free satellite image from GeoEye, Inc. in the fall of 2008. The image served as the base of all the data collection for existing natural and cultural features, as well as those from the planned and built environment. After acquiring the image, the next steps were to verify in the field what we were seeing in the image, and to work with the owners and community on the caye in an attempt to include the right amount of land for the protection of Red, White and Black Mangrove trees, American Crocodile, stingrays, plus the many fish and other marine life that make this ecosystem home. See the map – the darker areas are Caribbean waters dropping off to over 3000 feet deep!

The community here on Long Caye, as well as everyone involved with this effort is quite pleased with the result. I have collected a few pumice stones that have washed up on the beach here… I will send one to the first 20 donors, a small and fun gift from the earth… Please donate here to The GIS Institute to continue this important work here in Belize.

Long Caye is on Lighthouse Reef Atoll, about 75k east of the mainland coast. Lighthouse Reef is one of only four atolls in the western hemisphere, and it is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the second largest reef system in the world. Lighthouse Reef is far from population centers and other landmasses, making it a very unique place to study coral reef conditions, as well as mangrove and terrestrial ecosystems. Most of the influences on this remote atoll are already in “in the global soup,” both in the oceans and in the atmosphere.

Donate here

In Marine Plastic Pollution News, SeaLife Conservation has been collecting plastic marine debris under The Golden Gate Bridge this month, as part of the annual research they have been conducting in that location. The crew of The Derek M. Baylis was also able to escort “Plastiki” out of the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Plastiki project is all about raising awareness for marine debris and the way we view waste. The expedition itself centers around a revolutionary boat made out of recycled plastic bottles and srPET which will sail from San Francisco to Sydney over the next few months. See for more info on the Plastiki.

As you may have noted from blog posts I wrote from the “Think Beyond Plastics” voyage last fall, the problem of plastics in our rivers, lakes and eventually oceans is rapidly getting worse, as almost everything we consume has plastic in the life-cycle of the product. Think about what you see in even the “greenest” hip and healthy grocery stores, and see how the plastic take-out container has invaded the deli, bakery, prepared food sections, and most drink companies are offering only products in plastic bottles. We have yet to learn as a society how to discard these materials, and recycling efforts are only recovering a tiny fraction of these plastics.

I am in Belize right now, and there is just not enough time in the day to pick-up all the plastic I see washing up on the atoll, 50 miles from the mainland… Just look at this Hermit Crab with a plastic shell I photographed yesterday! Please donate to our efforts in collecting and mapping marine plastic pollution here: Donate

Your ‘at home’ challenge: Separate all plastics, even the non-recyclable stuff, from your trash for 30 days. Compost your vegetables and other organics. You’ll be quite shocked at how small the waste-stream is after removing the plastic and compostable materials. Please report back to us with pictures and stories!

More information about marine debris removal, and volunteer opportunities can be found at

We believe adventure is present in all GIS endeavors. The GIS Insitute strives to build community by bringing education, work, and service to the conservation GIS community.

Drew Stephens, Director,
The GIS Institute

European Union Satellite Centre Signs Enterprise License Agreement with ESRI España

Center Creates Geospatial Products for the European Union Using GIS Software from ESRI

The European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) recently signed a multiyear enterprise license agreement (ELA) with ESRI España, giving the agency greater access to the latest geographic information system (GIS) technology, training, and consulting services.

The EUSC operates under the auspices of the European Union (EU) Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The center provides imagery analysis and geospatial intelligence products and services to the EU’s political and military leadership. ESRI España, headquartered in Madrid, Spain, is the country’s distributor for California-based ESRI, the market leader in GIS software.

The ELA expands GIS software deployment at the EUSC, giving the staff access to the newest generation of geospatial capabilities and services from ESRI España. Through the ELA, the EUSC will receive streamlined access to software, consulting services, and training, thereby saving time and reducing and consolidating costs. This gives the EUSC the quick support it needs to accomplish its core mission of conducting imagery analysis and publishing timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence products and services for the EU.

The center, headed by director Tomaž Lovrenčič, has already deployed a considerable amount of ESRI technology. It also employs many expert GIS software users including image analysts, geospatial specialists, and other supporting personnel from EU member states.

“While EUSC has used our suite of software products for several years, we are honored that it has signed an enterprise license agreement with us,” said ESRI president Jack Dangermond. “This is a significant vote of confidence in our company’s products and will allow the EUSC to easily expand the use of GIS as its needs continue to grow.”

Alfonso Rubio, managing director of ESRI España, said he looks forward to continuing the close working relationship with the EUSC.

“We are pleased ESRI technology can help the center conduct cutting-edge image analysis and produce map products for the EU’s military staff as it directs peacekeeping operations and natural disaster relief efforts around the world,” Rubio said.

[Source: ESRI press release]

Spatial Distributions of Multiple Plant Species Affect Herbivore Foraging Selectivity

Oikos, Volume 119, Issue 2, Date: February 2010, Pages: 401-408

Ling Wang, Deli Wang, Yuguang Bai, Guitong Jiang, Jushan Liu, Yue Huang, and Yexing Li

“Spatial distribution of food resources is an important factor determining herbivore foraging. Previous studies have demonstrated that clumped distribution of preferred species increases its consumption by herbivores in single- or two-species systems. However, the potential impact of distribution pattern of less preferred species on foraging was ignored. In natural grasslands with high species diversity and complexity, the spatial distribution of preferred species impacts on herbivore foraging may be strongly correlated with the distribution of less preferred species.

“Our aims were to determine the effect of distribution of both preferred and other plant species on herbivore foraging under conditions close to a native, multi-species foraging environment, and conceptualize the relationships between spatial distribution of food resources and herbivore consumption. We hypothesized that random distribution of non-preferred species reduces herbivore consumption of preferred species because the dispersion of less preferred species likely disturbs herbivore foraging. We conducted an experiment using three species with five combinations of clumped and random distribution patterns. Three species Lathyrus quinquenervius, Phragmites australis and Leymus chinensis, were of high, intermediate and low preferences by sheep, respectively. Results showed that distribution of low preferred species, but not that of high preferred one, affected the consumption of preferred species. Sheep obtained higher consumption of high preferred species when low preferred species followed a clumped distribution than a random distribution. Distance between aggregations of high and low preferred species did not affect sheep foraging. It was concluded that the effects of spatial distribution of preferred species on its consumption are dependent on herbivore foraging strategy, and sheep can consume more preferred species when there is a consistent spatial pattern between preferred species and the entire food resource, and that the random dispersion of low preferred species in grassland may reduce herbivore consumption of high preferred species, thus minimizing selective grazing.”