Linking Remote-Sensing Information to Tropical Forest Structure: The Crucial Role of Modelling

A researcher is shown climbing into the canopy of a primary forest in Southern Cameroon to measure tree height and crown dimensions. Photo: Courtesy of authors.

A researcher is shown climbing into the canopy of a primary forest in Southern Cameroon to measure tree height and crown dimensions. Photo: Courtesy of authors.

Earthzine, posted on April 24th, 2012

Pierre Couteron, Nicolas Barbier, Christophe Proisy, Raphaël Pélissier, and Grégoire Vincent

“Using remote sensing to provide reliable information over extensive areas of dense and heterogeneous tropical forests is a challenging task. Not only is the task challenging, but it also has become closely related to global concerns about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, also known as the REDD process. The AMAP laboratory in Montpellier, France, is contributing to this challenge at the interface between signal processing and plant and vegetation modelling which is its central domain of expertise. Models of forest structure are an important tool to fill the scale gap between field observations and remotely sensed information. They help also to understand the complex interactions between signal and forest vegetation. As remotely-sensed data are diversifying, coupling forest structure and radiative transfer models helps to translate signal information into biophysical parameters. Refining such an approach is needed to design replicable methods that address the most challenging aspect of monitoring spatiotemporal variations of stand structure in forest types retaining high aboveground biomass.”

Development of Spatial Database for Sustainable Micro-level Planning of Chandanpur Mouza, Purulia, West Bengal

eTraverse: The Indian Journal of Spatial Science, Vol. II No. 2 — 2011

Abhijit Ghosh, Proshanta Kumar Ghosh, and Debajit Datta

“Micro-level planning in a comprehensive way, acts as one of the key factors in sustainable rural development and natural resource management. For preparation of appropriate micro-level planning strategies, proper and sufficient amount of real time spatial database is needed which can be successfully developed through digital mapping and decision support systems like GIS.

Landuse and Land cover

Landuse and Land cover

“Chandanpur Mouza in the Bhagabandh GP, Barabazar Block of Purulia District, West Bengal has been studied on a pilot basis for the preparation of such spatial databases with the ultimate objective of sustainable development and management of the area.”

Mapping Genetic Diversity of Cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.): Application of Spatial Analysis for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources

PLoS ONE, published 09 Jan 2012

Maarten van Zonneveld, Xavier Scheldeman, Pilar Escribano, María A. Viruel, Patrick Van Damme, Willman Garcia, César Tapia, José Romero, Manuel Sigueñas, and José I. Hormaza

“There is a growing call for inventories that evaluate geographic patterns in diversity of plant genetic resources maintained on farm and in species’ natural populations in order to enhance their use and conservation. Such evaluations are relevant for useful tropical and subtropical tree species, as many of these species are still undomesticated, or in incipient stages of domestication and local populations can offer yet-unknown traits of high value to further domestication. For many outcrossing species, such as most trees, inbreeding depression can be an issue, and genetic diversity is important to sustain local production. Diversity is also crucial for species to adapt to environmental changes.

Allelic richness corrected for sample size by using rarefaction.

Allelic richness corrected for sample size by using rarefaction.

“This paper explores the possibilities of incorporating molecular marker data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to allow visualization and better understanding of spatial patterns of genetic diversity as a key input to optimize conservation and use of plant genetic resources, based on a case study of cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.), a Neotropical fruit tree species. We present spatial analyses to (1) improve the understanding of spatial distribution of genetic diversity of cherimoya natural stands and cultivated trees in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru based on microsatellite molecular markers (SSRs); and (2) formulate optimal conservation strategies by revealing priority areas for in situ conservation, and identifying existing diversity gaps in ex situ collections. We found high levels of allelic richness, locally common alleles and expected heterozygosity in cherimoya’s putative centre of origin, southern Ecuador and northern Peru, whereas levels of diversity in southern Peru and especially in Bolivia were significantly lower. The application of GIS on a large microsatellite dataset allows a more detailed prioritization of areas for in situ conservation and targeted collection across the Andean distribution range of cherimoya than previous studies could do, i.e. at province and department level in Ecuador and Peru, respectively.”

Identifying Bus Stop Redundancy: A GIS-based Spatial Optimization Approach

Computers, Environment and Urban SystemsComputers, Environment and Urban Systems, Available Online 25 February 2012

Eric M. Delmelle, Shuping Li, and Alan T. Murray


  • A Spatial Interaction Coverage (SIC) model is used for transit planning.
  • SIC presents an alternative modeling tool to increase system efficiency while maintaining suitable access coverage.
  • Model parameters (access distance and facility attraction) are calibrated through consultations with local transit planners.
  • Simulated annealing heuristic is developed within a GIS to solve this non-linear problem.

“Transit planners are often faced with a tradeoff between improving accessibility through the addition of stops while simultaneously increasing efficiency so that destinations can be reached in a reasonable amount of time. In this paper, we propose the development of an optimization framework integrated within a Geographical Information System (GIS) for addressing this specific problem. Our proposed modeling framework departs from well-known facility location coverage models by considering both the impact of walking distance from an individual residential location to a stop and the transit facility attractiveness (ease to cross, number of destinations served). Integration within a GIS environment is accomplished using a simulated annealing heuristic. An example on an inbound urban bus route illustrates the utility of the approach for transit planning, using model parameters developed in collaboration with local transit agencies.”

Patterns of Obesogenic Neighborhood Features and Adolescent Weight: A Comparison of Statistical Approaches

American Journal of Preventive MedicineAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 2012, Vol. 42, No. 5

“Background: Few studies have addressed the potential influence of neighborhood characteristics on adolescent obesity risk, and fındings have been inconsistent.

“Purpose: Identify patterns among neighborhood food, physical activity, street/transportation, and socioeconomic characteristics and examine their associations with adolescent weight status using three statistical approaches.

“Methods: Anthropometric measures were taken on 2682 adolescents (53% female, mean age 14.5 years) from 20 Minneapolis/St. Paul MN schools in 2009–2010. Neighborhood environmental variables were measured using GIS data and by survey. Gender-stratifıed regressions related to BMI z-scores and obesity to (1) separate neighborhood variables; (2) composites formed using factor analysis; and (3) clusters identifıed using spatial latent class analysis in 2012.

“Results: Regressions on separate neighborhood variables found a low percentage of parks/recreation, and low perceived safety were associated with higher BMI z-scores in boys and girls. Factor analysis found fıve factors: away-from-home food and recreation accessibility, community disadvantage, green space, retail/transit density, and supermarket accessibility. The fırst two factors were associated with BMI z-score in girls but not in boys. Spatial latent class analysis identified six clusters with complex combinations of both positive and negative environmental influences. In boys, the cluster with highest obesity (29.8%) included low SES, parks/recreation, and safety; high restaurant and convenience store density; and nearby access to gyms, supermarkets, and many transit stops.

“Conclusions: The mix of neighborhood-level barriers and facilitators of weight-related health behaviors leads to diffıculties disentangling their associations with adolescent obesity; however, statistical approaches including factor and latent class analysis may provide useful means for addressing this complexity.”

Web Presence of Academic Geographers: A Generational Divide?

The Professional GeographerThe Professional Geographer, Accepted 14 April 2012

Matthew W. Wilson and Sarah Starkweather

“The pervasiveness of the Internet in society has brought about changes in academia and shifts in the day-to-day practices of many academics. Here, the web practices of academic geographers are specifically examined through an Internet-based survey, to better understand how these geographers both present themselves through the Internet and perceive the importance of such practices around web presence. Situated within this increasing importance of the Internet as part of professional practice and the neoliberalization of the university, the changes in the teaching and research of academics are overviewed. We then discuss our findings, which indicate a relationship between generation and web practices, and which further reinforce the need for a more central discussion of the importance of web presence within the context of a knowledge economy.”

Economic Vulnerability of Timber Resources to Forest Fires

Journal of Environmental ManagementJournal of Environmental Management, 100 (2012) pp. 16-21

Francisco Rodríguez y Silva, Juan Ramón Molina, Armando González-Cabán, and Miguel Ángel Herrera Machuca

“The temporalespatial planning of activities for a territorial fire management program requires knowing the value of forest ecosystems. In this paper we extend to and apply the economic valuation principle to the concept of economic vulnerability and present a methodology for the economic valuation of the forest production ecosystems. The forest vulnerability is analyzed from criteria intrinsically associated to the forest characterization, and to the potential behavior of surface fires.

Timber resources vulnerability for the Córdoba Province.

Timber resources vulnerability for the Córdoba Province.

“Integrating a mapping process of fire potential and analytical valuation algorithms facilitates the implementation of fire prevention planning. The availability of cartography of economic vulnerability of the forest ecosystems is fundamental for budget optimization, and to help in the decision making process.”

CyberGIS – Toward Synergistic Advancement of Cyberinfrastructure and GIScience: A Workshop Summary

Journal of Spatial Information ScienceJournal of Spatial Information Science, article in press

Shaowen Wang, Nancy R. Wilkins-Diehr, and Timothy L. Nyerges

“As a spatial data deluge takes place across numerous domains, both cyberinfrastructure and Geographic Information Science (GIScience) play increasingly essential roles in addressing grand challenges of scientific and engineering disciplines and improving decision-making practices with significant societal impacts. Yet, fulfilling such roles requires the development of cyberinfrastructure-based geographical information systems (CyberGIS) for effectively synthesizing cyberinfrastructure, GIScience, and spatial analysis and modelling. To better understand the opportunities and challenges to achieve the integrated CyberGIS vision through synergistic advancement of cyberinfrastructure and GIScience, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Cyberinfrastructure sponsored a CyberGIS workshop through the NSF TeraGrid project while the University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) co-organized the workshop that was held in conjunction with the UCGIS 2010 annual winter meeting. Over the one and one-half day workshop, a multidisciplinary group of experts from the international communities of cyberinfrastructure, GIScience, spatial analysis and modelling, and several other related scientific domains were brought together in a ‘participatory’ manner composed of both small- and large-group settings to discuss the CyberGIS roadmap. This workshop summary paper describes the activities and findings of the workshop relevant to CyberGIS research and education, and presents research questions and priorities that, if studied, will lay a solid foundation to synthesize computational and spatial studies toward a paradigm shift of geospatial fields.”

The Role of Age, Ethnicity and Environmental Factors in Modulating Malaria Risk in Rajasthali, Bangladesh

Malaria JournalMalaria Journal, 2011, Volume 10, Number 1

Ubydul Haque, Ricardo J Soares Magalhães, Dipak Mitra, Korine N Kolivras, Wolf-Peter Schmidt, Rashidul Haque, and Gregory E Glass

“Background: Malaria is endemic in the Rajasthali region of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh and the Rajasthali region is the most endemic area of Bangladesh. Quantifying the role of environmental and socio-economic factors in the local spatial patterns of malaria endemicity can contribute to successful malaria control and elimination. This study aimed to investigate the role of environmental factors on malaria risk in Rajasthali and to quantify the geographical clustering in malaria risk unaccounted by these factors.

“Method: A total of 4,200 (78.9%; N = 5,322) households were targeted in Rajasthali in July, 2009, and 1,400 individuals were screened using a rapid diagnostic test (Falci-vax). These data were linked to environmental and socio-economic data in a geographical information system. To describe the association between environmental factors and malaria risk, a generalized linear mixed model approach was utilized. The study investigated the role of environmental factors on malaria risk by calculating their population-attributable fractions (PAF), and used residual semivariograms to quantify the geographical clustering in malaria risk unaccounted by these factors.

“Results: Overall malaria prevalence was 11.7%. Out of 5,322 households, 44.12% households were living in areas with malaria prevalence of ≥ 10%. The results from statistical analysis showed that age, ethnicity, proximity to forest, household density, and elevation were significantly and positively correlated with the malaria risk and PAF estimation. The highest PAF of malaria prevalence was 47.7% for third tertile (n = 467) of forest cover, 17.6% for second tertile (n = 467) of forest cover and 19.9% for household density >1,000.

“Conclusion: Targeting of malaria health interventions at small spatial scales in Bangladesh should consider the social and socio-economic risk factors identified as well as alternative methods for improving equity of access to interventions across whole communities.”

Playful Public Participation in Urban Planning: A Case Study for Online Serious Games

Computers, Environment and Urban SystemsComputers, Environment and Urban Systems, Volume 36, Issue 3, May 2012, Pages 195–206

Alenka Poplin


  • We present the concept of play and games in urban planning.
  • The study case concentrates on the design of an online serious game.
  • The implemented game was tested with the help of students and external experts.
  • We summarize the positive and critical aspects of the implemented game.

“The aim of this paper is to study the implementation of online games to encourage public participation in urban planning. Its theoretical foundations are based on previous work in public participatory geographical information systems (PP GISs), play and games, with a special focus on serious games. Serious games aim to support learning processes in a new, more playful way. We developed the concept of playful public participation in urban planning, including playful elements such as storytelling, walking and moving, sketching, drawing, and games. A group of students designed an online serious public participatory game entitled NextCampus. The case study used in NextCampus was taken from the real-world question of a possible move of a university campus to a new location in the city of Hamburg, Germany. The development of the serious public participatory game NextCampus resulted in a physical prototype, user interface design, and a computational model of the game. The NextCampus game was tested with the help of two groups of urban planning students and presented to three external experts who provided valuable recommendations for further development. The critical comments questioned the level of complexity involved in such games. The positive comments included recognition of the potential for joy and the playfulness a game like NextCampus could evoke.”