An interactive web tool has been developed to improve the accuracy and extent of global land use and forest cover information. The new 'Geo-Wiki' uses Google Earth and information provided by a global network of volunteers to fill in 'data gaps' and to verify existing land cover information. Developers this week have launched a Geo-Wiki competition to raise awareness of the tool and to encourage community involvement in environmental monitoring.
Access to accurate land cover data is increasingly important as nations strive to balance issues such as agricultural production for food security with, for example, their objectives regarding climate change or biodiversity conservation. While much land cover information exists it is often conflicting, partially due to the scale at which it is collected, the uneven coverage of the data, or the different definitions of the land cover classes used.
"Global land cover information available to policymakers and the research community today is derived from remote sensing," says Dr Steffen Fritz, leader of the Geo-Wiki development team and research leader from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "While there are several excellent regional and national land cover datasets already available that capture some basic information, there are still many regions where the information derived from satellite sources is conflicting, or inconsistent, across the datasets."
"This means we cannot be certain of the spatial distribution of deforestation, how much land is being used for cropping or, for example, the extent of urbanization. This has implications for how regions assess such things as their carbon storage potential, how much land could be available for food production or biofuel expansion, decisions that are becoming increasingly important as climate change and food security concerns escalate," says Dr Fritz.
The new competition aims to encourage volunteers t
|Contact: Leane Regan|
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis