Mashing up the Global Forest Disturbance Alert System

by Luigi Guarino on June 5, 2012

So here’s how I’d like that Global Forest Disturbance Alert System I blogged about a couple of day ago to work, eventually. Or even this. Or this, for that matter.

But anyway. Say you’re reading about rattans in West Africa and you get interested in, say, Eremospatha barendii, which is kind of rare and probably perhaps sort of endangered, maybe. So you head on over to GBIF to get a better idea of its geographic distribution, but you come up blank. But then you do some more digging and you realize that there’s a new taxonomic revision, describing in minute detail the morphology and ecology of all the African species, with nice drawings and lists of specimens and identification keys.1 And, by golly, it has pretty maps too.

Pretty, but unusable. The damn things are in a PDF, not the nice Google Earth files you would have got from GBIF. But the coordinates of all the specimens2 are given in the text, so you extract them from the PDF and plonk them into Google Maps. It’s the little green arrow in southern Cameroon shown below.


View Larger Map

But you also want to know to what extent that area is threatened. So you head on over to the Global Forest Disturbance Alert System and you look at the latest data on where there is forest disturbance happening in Cameroon, which are the little red dots here.

Now you can see if that population of yours is perhaps threatened. Well no, you can’t do that now, not easily, because there’s no way to export the little red dots to Google Maps, or import the little green arrow into the Global Forest Disturbance Alert System. But I’m sure you will be able to do that one day. And then you could actually visit 3.066667 N 10.716667 E, and check out that Eremospatha barendii population, assuming it is still there, what with you spending so long mashing up the data and all, and also ground-truth any disturbance that the Global Forest Disturbance Alert System might have, er, alerted you to; maybe even describe its causes. And annotate the little green arrow and the little red dots with your observations.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Footnotes:
  1. Truth to tell, this post started out as a simple alert for this work, but it sort of took on a life of its own. []
  2. Well, fortunately, in this case there’s basically only one, which is the reason why I chose that species. But you get the idea. []

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave Wood June 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

Luigi: The `Global Forest Disturbance Alert System’ is not only useful to identify the level of threat to species, but also to predict the future distribution of species needing forest disturbance.
Sunderland’s excellent rattan revision has, for example: “Eremospatha laurentii is found in both open areas as well as in closed-canopy forest. However, this species responds particularly well to selective logging and is a common component of regrowth vegetation where it occurs.”
It seems that rattans thrive on disturbance and even, as with many other economic woody plant species (especially palms) grow in monodominant stands. This seems to turn on its head the agroecological argument that we should copy nature by growing diversity: rather the opposite.

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