Conserving Biodiversity in Madagascar

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Why We Love It

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is designed to safeguard Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened regions, known as biodiversity hotspots. CEPF is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. Maps serve as a great way to reach the organization’s global audience. We love this map of conservation efforts in Madagascar for its exceptional cartographic quality. By using inset maps and easy-to-understand symbology, the map gives us a clear picture of work being done across a large area.

Why It Works

This map works because it uses visual hierarchy to help tell the story of conservation priorities in Madagascar. Darker colors symbolize which sites are funding priorities. Reference information does not overwhelm us. Instead it provides enough context to orient anyone looking at the map. Masking helps maximize legibility of the labels and declutter parts of the scene.

Important Steps

Filter reference data (cities, rivers, roads, etc.) to only display those that are relevant and necessary to your map’s story. Consult local experts and other maps for inspiration.

Try to avoid placing labels where the background will have high contrast or is too close to the label color. If that’s unavoidable, mask the background to be just that—a neutral background.

Use insets sparingly and thoughtfully for those areas where there is too much detail for clarity. Use a small locator map with the inset to tie it back to the main map.



Data about conservation priorities, roads, and cities was provided by CI-Madagascar. The protected areas data came from the national agency overseeing them, and the coastline and rivers data from VMap0 for the main map. For the small island insets, a blend of VMap0, Natural Earth, and World Vector Shoreline was used and adjusted based on the Esri Imagery basemap where necessary. The hillshades were also derived from various scale-appropriate sources DEMs including GTOPO1 and ASTER. The EEZ boundary is from World Maritime Boundaries.


The analyses were performed by conservation experts. More information on the process can be found in the Ecosystem Profile.


The entire map production process from data prep to final press check was about 2 weeks.



Symbolize the hillshade using an image stretch that highlights the terrain, so that it can be visible when a high transparency is applied. Put polygon fills below the hillshade, and all linework above the hillshade.

Different Font Symbols


Use different font symbols for different features, and where appropriate match the label color to its related feature.

More Information

Map Author

Kellee Koenig

Kellee Koenig


Kellee is an award-winning cartographer who's passionate about GIS and the power of maps to communicate complex information and tell stories.

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