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October - December 2004
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Working Together Protecting the Environment

The geodatabase furnishes a foundation for organizing, managing, and accessing environmental data that is shared by all ArcGIS applications. It works with all types of data and supports a click to enlargevariety of relational DBMSs. Data models, combined with the geodatabase architecture, speed the implementation of GIS projects. Data models are industry specific templates that simplify the integration of similar datasets at the local, state/provincial, national, and global levels. The Biodiversity Data Model is being developed as a starting place for designing personal or enterprise geodatabases that will be used for conservation of biodiversity applications. This data model is being developed in cooperation with NatureServe with contributions by other conservation organizations. It will support existing information and provide a framework for publishing conservation data from multiple organizations.

The ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension helps organizations work together in protecting the environment by enlarging data integration capabilities. This extension directly reads more than 70 spatial formats including Geography Markup Language (GML), XML, Autodesk DWG/DXF, MicroStation Design, MapInfo MID/MIF and TAB, Intergraph GeoMedia Warehouse, Oracle, and Oracle Spatial. Its extensive export capabilities mean that data can be shared with any other organization, regardless of platform. This extension also makes creating custom data transformations and formats much easier through the use of a graphic interface. Other ArcGIS extensions, such as ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, ArcGIS 3D Analyst, and ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst, help visualize, analyze, and model the interaction of mankind and the environment.

Two articles in this issue show how GIS can assess the unintended impact of exotic species. An example cited earlier in this article describes a study that is measuring the impact of European earthworms on two national parks. The changes in soil composition caused by earthworms have affected the type and number of plant species in the park. The ArcPad-based survey documents invasion points and inventories vegetation.

Using GIS, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has documented the damage suffered by 800,000 acres of the state's coastal wetlands at the teeth of a large rodent transplanted from South America called the nutria. "Safeguarding Coastal Wetlands Through Exotic Species Control" tells how GIS is being used to assess damage and control the nutria population.

Promoting Collaboration

Building consensus and coordinating activities is another tremendous contribution GIS makes to environmental protection activities. Although the problems stemming from coal mining activities began in the 1880s, tons of acid pollution continue pouring into watersheds in northwestern Pennsylvania. GIS is helping develop a full watershed remediation plan that will consider cost and effectiveness of various strategies, other factors that influence water conditions, and the socioeconomic and legal aspects of remediation. These activities are described in "Prioritizing Acid Mine Drainage Stream Remediation."

Reporting the results of analysis and disseminating data and information are also important to environmental protection activities. "Mapping Hydrological Drought in the Great Plains" provides an example of GIS used for this purpose. Investigators at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, are developing a drought index that can be used for drought monitoring and mitigation support for the Great Plains region of the United States. This data is available online from an ArcIMS Web site.

Meeting the Mandate

With the realization that natural resources are finite comes a mandate to protect these resources and manage them wisely. By creating shared databases that integrate spatial as well as other types of datasets based on geographic location, information can be collected once and used many times. GIS also enables information exchange and collaboration between government, private organizations, and the public that makes protection efforts less expensive and more effective.

A diverse community of users from international organizations; national, state, and local governments; industrial organizations; environmental engineering; and consulting firms uses GIS for better resource management both within and outside their organizations.

A new electronic newsletter, Environmental Observer, describes the activities of environmental GIS users and other related news. It is available at no charge. To subscribe to Environmental Observer or learn more about how GIS is being used for environmental protection, visit the Environmental Management Web pages at the Esri Web site or contact

Nick Thomas
Environmental Management
Tel.: 909-793-2853, Ext. 1-1305

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