The Ecological Land Units Map and Data Sets of the World
In my view, one of the most important new global datasets released in the past year is the Ecological Land Units of the world. This dataset came from a collaboration between Esri and Dr. Roger Sayre and others from the USGS. It was officially launched in late 2014 the ACES 2014: A Community on Ecosystem Services meeting in Washington, DC. For the data set, the collaborators undertook a massive biophysical stratification of the planet at the finest yet-attempted spatial resolution of 250 meters to produce this first-ever map of distinct physical environments and their associated land cover. Project leaders also offered a concept for delineating ecologically meaningful regions that is essentially both classification-neutral and data-driven. Their intent was to provide scientific support for planning and management (including as an important variable for GIS geodesign models and apps), and to enable understanding of impacts to ecosystems from climate change and other disturbances; hence for valuation of ecosystem services. This site is a manifestation of Software as a Service (SaaS) that we discuss in our book.
The data from the map is offered in both the public domain and as ArcGIS Online content with considerable value-added analytical and visualization functionality. Project leaders encourage the community to test and use the data, to develop apps based on the data, and to consider delineating their own ecological regions using the ecophysiographic stratification approach with local, finer resolution datasets.
There are multiple ways to learn more and to access the map and the underlying data:
- As a presentation: ACES 2014 Town Hall presentation by Roger Sayre (USGS) and Dawn Wright (Esri) via this link.
- As a story map: Introduction to the ecological land units project via esriurl.com/elu
- As an App to explore the data via esriurl.com/EcoTapestry and search for a place of interest.
- As a technical report, to learn more about how the ecological land units were derived via www.aag.org/global_ecosystems
- As data in ArcGIS Online: Get started using this content in ArcGIS (with an ArcGIS Online for Organizations subscription) via esriurl.com/landscape
- As raw data as global rasters from USGS via ftp: http://rmgsc.cr.usgs.gov/outgoing/ecosystems/Global/
- As a white paper to give further guidance to our use case testers thoughout the academic community, and to offer the associated conceptual and technical support pro bono.
- For general reading, via an article in Wired magazine: New Map Shows the World’s Ecosystem in Unprecedented Detail.
Project researchers are already making improvements to the data, initially by swapping the GLOBCOVER 2009 data that they used with the new 2010 epoch Global Land Cover map (v 1.4). There will be more improvements to come as the appropriate data become available.