Geographers from across the U.S. and the world met in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 10–14 to present and discuss recent and ongoing research on diverse geographic topics, including hazards, urbanization, public engagement. Several sessions on human settlement and population mapping were organized, including two on high-resolution population modeling and a session on advancements in detecting and projecting population and the footprint of human settlements. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a presentation in the latter session on the ongoing efforts of the POPGRID Data Collective to advance the use and impact of geospatial settlement, infrastructure, and population data in sustainable development and other applications. Greg Yetman, associate director for Geospatial Applications, discussed mapping green infrastructure and impervious surfaces in New York City, in a session, “Making the City Green.″ His presentation was co-authored with John Squires, senior research staff assistant, and was based on work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of the project, Developing High Performance Green Infrastructure Systems to Sustain Coastal Cities, led by Patricia Culligan of the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the Urban Design Lab. POPGRID activities are supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.
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Participants in the launch of a new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3),″ at at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City. Left to right: Roger Shulungu Runika, director general, Ministry of Planning, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Rachel Snow, chief, UNFPA; Homere Ngoma Ngoma, census coordinator at the Central Bureau of the Census, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Marc Levy, deputy director, CIESIN; Linus Bengtsson, executive director and co-founder, Flowminder; and Tapiwa Jhamba, technical advisor, UNFPA.
A new project, “Geo-referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3),” was launched at a side event of the 49th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission held March 7 in New York City. The side event featured a panel presentation on project objectives and applications by representatives of core GRID3 partners, including Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director; Linus Bengtsson, executive director and co-founder of Flowminder; Rachel Snow, chief, Population and Development Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Tapiwa Jhamba, technical advisor, also of UNFPA. Joining the core partners as a panelist was Homere Ngoma Ngoma, census coordinator at the Central Bureau of the Census, National Statistics Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who made a presentation on the 2019 DRC census and the potential impact of GRID3 involvement. Also attending were CIESIN senior research staff assistants Olena Borkovska and Kira Topik, and project coordinator Kevin Tschirhart. A lively question-and- answer session followed the presentations.
GRID3 is facilitating the collection, analysis, integration, dissemination, and utilization of high-resolution population, infrastructure, and other reference data in support of national sectoral development priorities, humanitarian efforts, health, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project aims to increase developing countries’ capabilities for mapping population distribution as a way of ensuring that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, is counted, refining development priorities and extending and improving the scope and efficacy of countries’ development efforts. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom′s Department for International Development (DFID). Sandra Baptista, senior research associate, is a co-project investigator, with Marc Levy.
NASA has recently released the 2017 edition of Sensing Our Planet, free in print or for download at the Earthdata Web site. The publication highlights the use of earth science data in a range of scientific research areas, from hazard prediction to public health to water resource management. One of this year′s articles, “Zika Zone,” focuses on mapping the spread of the Zika virus. Researchers Moritz Kramer from the Harvard Medical School and Janey Messina from the University of Oxford combined environmental data about the Zika virus—for example, preferred habitat, temperature and rainfall requirements, and need for stagnant water to lay eggs in and heavily populated urban environments—with population data to create maps showing environmental suitability for the transmission of the virus. Data sources included the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and a vegetation index based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Mapping the transmission in this way let the scientists estimate the number of people globally at risk—more than two billion—and anticipate areas of potential Zika outbreaks, helping to inform public health decisions. GPW data were also used together with gravity and radar data and land surface models from several other DAACs to assess groundwater resources in Mexico, as described in the article, “Closed Season.″
Sensing Our Planet highlights data from the twelve DAACs of the NASA Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The publication has been produced since 1994 by the Snow and Ice DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.
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 Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has released a new data set, Effects of Climate Change on Global Food Production under SRES Emissions and Socio-Economic Scenarios. The data set was developed by scientists from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
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.
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.
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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