Mapping landscapes: Five tools to manage competing land uses

16 October 2018

Landscape approaches seek to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. When applying a landscape approach, the first step is to identify which land use is located where, occupied by who, and how the dynamics of the where and who has changed over time. Only when this basic spatial information is available to stakeholders in a landscape, feasible conservation and development tradeoffs can be made.

Technological advances in the satellite and GIS industry, cloud computing, and machine learning have accelerated the development of a wide range of powerful web-tools that bridge landscape practitioners and big data suppliers. In this blog we give you our top five of online and free-to-use spatial tools that give you the land use information you need to feed into dialogues about landscape management.

1. Access satellite images

Sometimes we just want to know what a landscape looks like from the air without interpretations of land cover. The Sentinel Hub EO browser makes it possible to browse and compare full resolution images from various satellites. You simply go to your area of interest, select criteria such as time range and cloud coverage, and inspect the resulting data from different sources. The process behind your request hides a query for relevant scenes and their bands, decompression of relevant parts, and creates a mosaic. The visual comparison tool makes it possible to observe changes in the land from 1984 onward.


2. Forests

 For forested landscapes, Global Forest Watch (GFW) is the first tool to use. GFW is an open-source web application to monitor global forests in near real-time. It is free and simple to use, enabling anyone to find out if protected areas are conserving forests, analyze forest trends, subscribe to forest cover loss alerts, or download raw forest cover loss/gain data.


3. Biodiversity

Conservationists that are interested in gaining insight in where Aichi Biodiversity Targets are met, should directly surf to the webpage of the UN Biodiversity Lab. The UN Biodiversity Lab is an online platform that provides key GIS layers that are relevant for the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The interface is user-friendly and the data sets are based on broadly accepted science. The website is an initiative of UNDP and UN Environment.


4. Water security

Aqueduct's global water risk mapping tool is the state-of-the art platform to understand where and how water risks are emerging in river basins worldwide. The tool has been made by WRI and uses the best-available data to create high-resolution, customizable global maps of water risk.


5. Climate resilience

Demand for basic climate information is on the rise, but this information is often hard to find, access, and use. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) offers easy access to data, creating best-in-class tools, and helps to navigate through the resilience planning landscape.


Learn more? Contact us

We hope that these five web-tools trigger stakeholders in a landscape to improve spatial literacy that enable better decisions. The tools can be perfectly used as a vehicle for improved transparency and accountability, and to get insights across sectors that can be used to deliver effective, feasible and fair interventions. If you want to know more about where to find the latest spatial datasets and how to use them, then please contact Maxime Eiselin.

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