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.”

Esri Science Organization Site License

The Science Organization Site License is designed to deliver easy access to the full suite of GIS technology to researchers.

As entities of universities or as standalone organizations, researchers at a small non-commercial, science organizations or research institutes are unique in that they not only conduct research, but may also coordinate diverse sectors (government agencies, NGOs, small businesses, etc.), build consensus among experts, and pay special attention to GIS project implementation, tool development, and technology transfer. These science organizations are typically much smaller than a university (e.g., 50 to 500 employees).

In terms of licensing of Esri technology, these science organizations may fall through the cracks (i.e., they may not be affiliated with a university, not truly a government agency, not truly a conservation or humanitarian non-profit, and if part of a university, may be located off-campus and thus have difficulties getting resources or recognition from the broader campus university site license). The science kit, a US domestic offering, designed to meet their unique needs.

Researchers at such organizations are typically equivalent to faculty members at a college or university, but not engaged in nearly as much teaching–or perhaps no teaching at all. Their focus is more along the lines of data collection, analysis, interpretation, and publishing of research results in the areas of geography, ocean science, hydrology, ecology, forestry, climate science, geology/geophysics, agricultural science, conservation biology, geographic information science, computer science, sustainability science and/or geodesign. These researchers may be skilled in GIS and computer programming, or rely on the support of GIS analysts or information systems managers at their organization.

A Foundation for Scientific Research

The Esri Science Organization Site License is designed to deliver easy access to the full suite of GIS technology to researchers.  ArcGIS Online is a key offering within the kit so that it may be used as an organizational platform for research, as the infrastructure to perform that research, and as a digital science information laboratory.


The Esri Science Kit is aimed at fostering science collaboration, visualization, analytics, modeling, communication, and in building a complete science data management system. Therefore, if a research grant is forthcoming to the organization, this is the magic ingredient to use.

Load your own data and go,” with Esri basemaps, story maps, ArcGIS Collector, sharing/collaboration space with an ArcGIS Online for Organizations account. The science kit includes the ArcGIS Open Data app as part of the organizational account as another option for easy and open sharing of data (e.g., drag and drop maps, tables, shapefiles into the app to share on the web, open for developers, open for science communicators).

ArcGIS is a comprehensive geospatial platform for science, supporting research, supporting collaboration, supporting spatial analysis, visualization, open data, and science communication at multiple SCALES:

  • At the scale of the individual researcher with basemaps, content management, apps (e.g., field collection, open data, viewing, cloud based spatial analysis, GeoEvent Processor for Server, raster processing in the cloud);
  • At the scale of workgroups in a lab, collaboration and data sharing with partners, plug ins;
  • At the scale of supporting inter-organization collaboration from research institute to research institute, research institute to federal agency (e.g., NOAA/NASA); research institute to national or global initiative such as NSF EarthCube or GEOSS.
  • At the scale of broader citizen engagement, in communicating its science to the general public (e.g., story maps and open web map publishing).

What’s Included

Licensee may copy and deploy the Programs listed below up to the total quantity of licenses indicated
The list above is subject to change should Esri commitments to third parties regarding licensed third-party technology included in Esri products prohibit or not provide redistribution rights in Site licenses to Esri licensees.


  • Uncapped use of products as defined in the Deliverables section – unless otherwise noted.
  • 2 User Conference Passes
  • 2 GIS Specialists appointed by Research Institute for Technical Support contacts
  • Uncapped access to Esri Self-Paced e-Learning
  • Esri Press has authorized the gift of two science related Esri Press Books to the Esri Science Organization Site License customers. The choice of the books will be up to Dawn Wright and the customer.

[Note: The Esri Science Organization Site License does not include installation or implementation services and is for US domestic organizations only. International research organizations already have an International Research Institute Program available through the Esri distributor for a particular country.]


Technical Support Services: Technical support services are included and will be provided in accordance with the then-current Esri technical support policy, provided Licensee remains current on its payment of the Annual Fee. Licensee’s GIS Specialist(s) will be the only individual(s) authorized to contact Esri for technical support.

Upgrades: During the general commercial release of the Products, Esri, at its sole discretion, will deliver to Licensee one (1) upgrade package for each of the Programs included in the Site License or make updates available for downloading from Esri’s website, provided the Annual Fee has been paid and the Agreement is current.

For a Quote, Please Contact:

Dawn Wright, Esri Chief Scientist,

[Updated 08 February 2018]

Spatially Prioritizing Seafloor Mapping for Coastal and Marine Planning

Coastal ManagementCoastal Management, published online 13 February 2015

By Tim Battista and Kevin O’Brien

“Coastal and marine areas provide vital services to support the economic, cultural, recreational, and ecological needs of human communities, but sustaining these benefits necessitates a balance between growing and often competing uses and activities. Minimizing coastal zone conflict and reducing human-induced impacts to ecological resources requires access to consistent spatial information on the distribution and condition of marine resources. Seafloor mapping provides a detailed and reliable spatial template on the structure of the seafloor that has become a core data need for many resource management strategies. The absence of detailed maps of the seafloor hinders the effectiveness of priority setting in marine policy, regulatory processes, and marine stewardship.

Spatial prioritization results from Hot Spot Analysis.

Spatial prioritization results from Hot Spot Analysis.

“For large management areas, the relatively high cost of seafloor mapping and limited management budgets requires careful spatial prioritization. In order to address this problem, a consensus based approach, aided by decision-support tools, and participatory geographic information systems (GIS), was implemented in Long Island Sound to spatially prioritize locations, define additional data collection efforts needed, and identify products needed to inform decision-making. The methodology developed has utility for other states and regions in need of spatially prioritizing activities for coastal planning, and organizations charged with providing geospatial services to communities with broad informational needs.”