The new online mapping service, the National Priority List (NPL) Superfund Footprint Mapper, was featured as part of a Webinar sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Partnerships for Public Environmental Health (PEPH) on May 7. Participants numbered 158 attendees, more than 30 from federal agencies. Senior research associate Meredith Golden showcased the Mapper with assistance from geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn, who also helped develop the service. Golden highlighted data from several projects of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. These include the U.S. Census Grids and the Global Poverty Mapping Project. The NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper can display population and environmental characteristics for areas surrounding more than 1700 NPL Superfund sites. An archived recording of the Webinar will be available soon on the SRP Web site.
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Announced at the World Economic Forum held January 25–29 in Davos, Switzerland, the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, identifies Switzerland as first in addressing pollution control and natural resource management challenges. Iraq is ranked last. The EPI has been produced every two years since 2006. The 2012 EPI ranks 132 countries, using 22 indicators in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity, and forest management.
For the first time a complementary index showing country improvement from 2000 to 2010, the Pilot Trend Environmental Performance Index (Trend EPI), was released. Latvia was ranked number one in the Trend EPI, with Russia in last place. The U.S., which is 49th in the EPI, was just 77th in the Trend EPI, implying few recent gains in addressing environmental issues.
Data sets making up the EPI were contributed from the International Energy Agency, remote sensing research groups at Battelle and University of Maryland, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and other entities. Lack of data in certain areas—in particular, waste management, toxic exposures, agricultural sustainability and water resources—continue to limit the ability of the EPI to contribute towards the understanding necessary to develop policies for safeguarding the environment.
The largest, most comprehensive global information service on environmental law, ECOLEX, combines the environmental law information holdings of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) into an accessible and easy-to-use online service. CIESIN is supporting ECOLEX through a search service that enables users to easily search for and obtain Conference of Party (COP) decisions for ten major treaties. The tool was initially developed as part of the Environmental Treaty and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) service of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). The COP decision search tool indexes thousands of decision documents using a Google Search Appliance and has recently been updated with new COP decisions as of April 2, 2010.
Over the past few decades coastal waters throughout the world have received an increased influx of nutrients from land-based sources. The resulting change in water quality has many possible implications for coastal and marine ecosystems. In extreme cases eutrophication results, where excess nutrients in the water stimulate excessive plant growth. This can lead to hypoxia—oxygen-depleted “dead zones”—and harmful algal blooms.
Coastal water quality over time may be assessed by measuring chlorophyll concentrations as an indicator of algae biomass. A new global data set, Indicators of Coastal Water Quality, aims to identify near-coastal areas that have improving, declining, and stable chlorophyll concentrations in order to help identify areas that may need management intervention. The data set uses chlorophyll-a concentrations derived from NASA’s sea-viewing wide field-of-view sensor (SeaWiFS) to analyze trends over a ten year period (1998–2007). This data set is a result of a pilot effort, and the methodology will be further refined as part of a NASA Decisions feasibility project.
An interactive mapper has been released as part of the Last of the Wild Web site. This new mapper provides previews of the Last of the Wild, Version Two data sets. Using the mapper, users are now able to visualize the human influence index and the human footprint data sets, overlay national boundaries, or pan and zoom to an area of interest to gain a preliminary understanding about the data sets before downloading them. The mapper was developed using the open source Open Layers client technology with Geoserver backend.
For more advanced visualization and overlay with other related data sets, users may turn to the stand-alone SEDAC Map Client, which is offered via CIESIN’s World Data Center for Human Interactions in the Environment Web site. The Last of The Wild, Version Two data sets depict the extent of human influence on terrestrial ecosystems, using data sets compiled on or around the year 2000.
The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 163 countries on environmental performance, has been released at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 in Davos, Switzerland. The Index, produced every two years since 2006 by researchers at CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy, is based on twenty-five indicators grouped within ten core policy categories—including environmental health, air quality, water resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change—in the context of two objectives: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The EPI’s proximity-to-target approach, in which each country’s performance is measured against clearly defined targets, enables comparisons among countries with very different characteristics.
Although some rankings have changed dramatically—the U.S. dropped from 39th to 61st place since the 2008 index, for example—so too have the methodologies and data. “A better focus is the comprehensive country profiles, which present a measurement across the different environmental indicators,” says CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, a co-author on the report. These profiles, designed by CIESIN research associate Valentina Mara in conjunction with the Yale team, show a country’s scores for the indicators, policy categories, and objectives. Drilling down here, de Sherbinin points out, can help decision makers identify the needed focus of attention for a particular country. Geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh, CIESIN deputy director and EPI project leader Marc Levy, and senior research staff assistant Paola Kim were also part of the CIESIN team.
Analysis shows that income is a major factor in high environmental performance, but that policy choices may trump economic capacities. For example, the differences between neighboring countries Chile (ranked 16th) and Argentina (70th), or between Malaysia (55th) and Thailand (68th), have a lot to do with different approaches to environmental policy and governance. The biggest changes this year were seen in the scores for air pollution and effects on ecosystems, and a new indicator, water scarcity, was added. The indicators were drawn from international organizations such as the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Some of the data sets are drawn from government reporting that is not subject to external validation, and incomplete data have resulted in incomplete representation of countries. The report calls for greater investment by the world community in environmental monitoring, and for data sharing and transparency on the part of national governments.
TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer is a map viewer and standalone software application that uses a powerful data-viewing engine and tools to enable the visualization and integration of hundreds of socioeconomic and environmental variables and layers, including a range of satellite-based data. A three-part tutorial that explains how to use TerraViva! is now available through the YouTube Web site. The tutorial was produced by senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin and senior media designer Al Pinto, under the auspices of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN has released the 2009 National Resource Management Index (NRMI). This version of the NRMI has updated data and improved methodology for the eco-region protection indicator, one of the four indicators that make up the NRMI. The improvements included the exclusion of international protected areas, many of which lack effective protection (the ones that do already have a national designation), and improved coastal boundary matching between biomes and national boundaries using the highest resolution coastal data available.
The NRMI is a composite index of four measures. In addition to the eco-region protection indicator, the indicators include: access to improved sanitation, access to improved water, and child mortality. In response to the search for a natural resources management indicator initiated by the the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the NRMI was first developed in May 2005 by a consortium led by CIESIN and including the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), the University of New Hampshire Water Systems Analysis Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Columbia University Tropical Agriculture Program. The MCC uses the NRMI as as one of its performance indicators to help determine country eligibility for its foreign aid programs.
Anthropogenic biomes, also known as “anthromes” or “human biomes,” describe the terrestrial biosphere in its contemporary, human-altered form using global ecosystem units defined by patterns of sustained direct human interaction. In a paper presented in the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ellis and Ramankutty (2008) delineate 21 anthropogenic biomes based on population density, land use, biota, climate, terrain and geology. The anthropogenic biomes are further grouped into six major categories: dense settlements, villages, croplands, rangeland, forested, and wildlands. A new Web site, “Anthropogenic Biomes (version one),” provides access to the spatial data sets described in the paper. Available in raster GeoTiff and GRID formats, the data may be downloaded as one global grid or a grid for each of the six populated continents. The methodology involves a multi-stage procedure where “anthropogenic” cells are first separated from “wild” cells based on presence of population, crops, or pastures. A detailed description of the methods utilized to produce the data, as well as research results, may be downloaded from the Web site.
In support of CIESIN’s Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI) contribution to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), CIESIN’s SEDAC program has added to its Internet map client the protected areas “mask” and the World Wildlife Fund terrestrial biome data upon which the 2008 NRMI ecoregion protection indicator was calculated.
This tool will help countries assess their protected area coverage by biome in order to better understand their ecoregion protection indicator score. Further information on the methodology used to calculate the ecoregion protection indicator is available from the MCC/NRMI Web site.
A recent art exhibition in Paris made prominent use of data developed by CIESIN. The exhibition, Terre Natale: Ailleurs Commence Ici (Native Land: Stop Eject), by Raymond Depardon and Paul Virilio, was presented at Fondation/Cartier/ pour l’art contemporain from November 21, 2008 to March 15, 2009. As part of the exhibition, professor Laura Kurgan, director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, co-authored a collaborative design of video presentation that immersed viewers with images from a nearly-360 degree projection displayed throughout a circular room. The 30-minute video, which utilizes data from CIESIN’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection and Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) available from the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), includes a moving globe that dynamically illustrates the economic, political, and environmental causes of global migration. “We translated the gridded population data from pixels into numbers and graphs and then animated it, overlaying many other kinds of data about migration such as displacement from floods, voluntary economic migration as seen through remittances, and refugee flows archived by UNHCR,” explained Kurgan. “The piece communicates to scientific, policy, and general audiences—and from children to NGOs—as a device for expressing complex ideas in simple ways.” The exhibition catalog, published by the museum, is available in both English and French.
Attendees of experts meeting in Beijing to review progress toward an environmental performance index for China. Front row, left to right: Xiaoshi Xing, Wang Jinnan, Christine Kim, Alex de Sherbinin, Cao Dong. Back row: Staff of CAEP, YCELP, and City University of Hong Kong, with CIESIN’s Marc Levy (sixth from left).
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, and information scientist Xiaoshi Xing participated in an experts meeting in Beijing February 5, the purpose of which was to review data and indicators for the China Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The meeting was co-organized with the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning (CAEP) and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP). CIESIN and YCELP were responsible for leading development of the 2008 EPI, a global environmental performance assessment which ranked 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across six established policy categories. The China EPI is expected to be released in September 2009.
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