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Applications of Geographic Information System Essay

ABSTRACT

This paper discusses the application of GIS as a tool in monitoring biodiversity with special reference to Pakistan. The major advantages of satellite data are that the large and inaccessible areas can be covered using a standard approach, with a uniform level of detail and at relatively low coast. Networked information like GIS and Remote sensing not only provides speedy answers to scientific problems and issues, but also broadens planet of possible questions on the conservation and sustainable utilization of biological diversity. Simply we can say that the GIS is associated with two different functions for a geographical perspective on biodiversity data and other environmental issues. (1) It contains a powerful reference base (geographic location), i.e. maps of natural vegetation (endemic, multipurpose, and threatened), soil, land cover, topography, hydrology, bird migration, distribution of fauna and flora, etc. (2) GIS is a powerful and effective way of communicating a large variety of information. In developing countries GIS is used so as to make possible the sustainable development, conservation, management and monitoring of biodiversity.

In Pakistan the application of GIS in various fields is still not very common. Talking about its usage for biodiversity conservation, management and monitoring, it is just 5-7 years back. Departments like wildlife department of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhton Khawa, Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan and various NGOs like IUCN, WWF-P, SUPARCO are using this satellite based technology for conservation, management and monitoring of various ecological characteristics like distribution of flora and fauna, the population and the status of flora and fauna, the health of wetlands, national parks, game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

In addition to this GIS is also use now a days in Pakistan for land use purposes but this work so far done is not enough to come through the circumstances face by our planet specially the tropical and sub tropical countries like Pakistan. Therefore, in Pakistan there is a need for more comprehensive approaches that deal with new remote sensing technologies and analysis in a GIS-environment, and that integrate findings collected over longer periods with the aim of prediction. It is also imperative to collect and integrate data from different disciplines. These are essential in the spirit of sustainable development and conservation, management and monitoring of natural resources. Keywords: geographic information system (GIS); biodiversity; monitoring.

INTRODUCTION

Geographical Information Systems

A Geographical Information System (GIS) is a system of hardware, software and procedures to facilitate the conservation, monitoring, management, etc by manipulation, analysis, modeling, representation and display of geo-referenced data to solve complex ecological and environmental problems. GIS functions in a systematic way as: data entry, data display, data management, information retrieval and analysis. The main function of an Information system is to improve one’s ability to make decisions. A geographic information system is an information system that is designed to work with data referenced to spatial or geographic coordinates. GIS is both a database system with specific capabilities for spatially referenced data, as well as a set of operation for working with any type of data as well. The three basic types of GIS applications which might also represent stages of development of a single GIS application are as under (Ramachandran, 1993, Ramachandran et.al., 1997, 1998).

Inventory Application

The first step in developing a GIS application is making an inventory of the features like flora and fauna for a given geographic area. The emphasis at this stage is the updating of simple data retrieval (Ramachandran, 1993, Ramachandran et.al., 1997, 1998).

Analysis Application

After the inventory stage, complex queries on multiple layers can be performed using spatial and aspatial analysis techniques.

Management Application

More advanced spatial and modeling techniques are required to support the decisions of managers and policy makers so that they can better monitor the issues. This means that the shifting of emphasis will be from basic geographic data handling to manipulation, analysis and modeling in order to solve real world problems (Ramachandran, 1993, Ramachandran et.al., 1997, 1998). There has been a revolution in the availability of information and in the development and application of tools for managing information during the past 4 to 5 years (Harison 1995). Geographic information system (GIS) is an important tool for monitoring biodiversity, which accommodates large varieties of spatial and aspatial (attribute) data. The information programmed in a GIS is used to target surveys, measurements and monitoring schemes. Various types of data on species and habitat distribution from different dates allow monitoring of the location and the extent of change.

A GIS is actually a spatially referenced database that allows multiple layers of data to be created and displayed together as computerized maps. Data sources may includes aerial surveys, satellite data, existing maps, field surveys and expert knowledge. GIS is such an efficient technology that it enables the standard formatting of all maps used, no matter what their source is. The major advantages of satellite data are that large and inaccessible areas can be covered using a standard approach, with a uniform level of detail and at relatively low coast. Biodiversity means the variety of life in this universe and its definition as given by The Convention on Biological Diversity is: “The variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are apart, this includes diversity within species and of ecosystems.

More simply, the biodiversity is the variety of the world’s organisms, including their genetic makeup and the communities they form. Biodiversity is dynamic: the genetic composition of species changes over time in response to natural and human-induced selection pressures; the occurrence and relative abundance of species in ecological communities changes as a result of ecological and physical factors (Box 2)”. (Elzinga et al. 2001) defined monitoring as, “The collection and analysis of repeated observations or measurements to evaluate changes in condition and progress toward meeting a management objective” Monitoring is actually the repeated surveys or measurements taken by means of some standardized procedure so that the predetermined objectives or values be analyzed or interpret.

Thus, the biodiversity monitoring is the estimation of diversity at any location more than one time so as to draw inference about any change that has occurred or is likely to occur (Wilson et. al 1996). The attributes of biological diversity that can be assessed at each level of ecological organization were identified by (Wilson et.al 1996). The attributes that could be monitored include the identity, distribution, and proportions of each type of habitat, and the distribution of species within those habitats at landscape level and at ecosystem level, richness, evenness, and diversity of species, guilds and communities are important. Abundance, density and biomass of each population may be of interests on species level and at the genetic level, genetic diversity of individual organisms within population is important. It is very important to assess and interpret biodiversity at all these levels of organization by using various approaches at several spatial and temporal scales (Noss and Cooperrider 1994).

DISCUSSION

GIS plays an important role as a tool for environmental conservation, management and monitoring, with the current greater concern for sustainable use of resources, and conservation, management and monitoring of biodiversity. Simply we can say that the GIS is associated with two different functions for a geographical perspective on biodiversity data and other environmental issues. (1) It contains a powerful reference base (geographic location), i.e. maps of natural vegetation (endemic, multipurpose, and threatened), soil, land cover, topography, hydrology, bird migration, distribution of fauna and flora, etc. (2) GIS is a powerful and effective way of communicating a large variety of information. In developing countries GIS is used so as to make possible the sustainable development, conservation, management and monitoring of biodiversity.

These countries not only hold a large part of universe’s biodiversity (particularly from tropical coastal ecosystems), but they are also the most vulnerable to environmental degradation. Remote sensing studies relevant to the field of sustainable development in tropical developing countries were provided by Calzadilla P´erez et al. (2002), Dahdouh-Guebas et al. (2002b), De La Ville et al. (2002), Jayatissa et al. (2002), Kairo et al. (2002), Sulong et al. (2002) and Verheyden et al. (2002). Records of species and other ecological characters or habitat can be stored in a database and mapped to show where they occur and this geographic information can be used to target surveys and monitoring schemes (Marqules & Austin, 1991). Spatial and aspatial data from different dates allow monitoring of the location of change (where) to be identified and the extent (how much) measured. The aspatial data include tables of measurements, species and habitat, attributes, images, videos, sound, etc while the spatial data include maps, satellite imagery and aerial images.

The taxonomic, ecological and cultural variables required for assessment and monitoring of biological diversity and their corresponding information scales were showed by Davis et al. (1990). A GIS-based approach for the analysis of biodiversity was developed by Walker & Faith (1993) and according to this approach species lists for different geographic locations with other geographic data describing the locations of nature reserves and geographic variations in environmental conditions were linked.

The analysis modeling applied to environmental data are the recent developments in GIS (Aspinall, 1995), notably predicting the distribution of wildlife species under present and changed environmental conditions, understanding the interaction of habitats and other aspects of ecological infrastructure within landscapes, and interpreting and monitoring biodiversity for use in management. Networked information like GIS and Remote sensing not only provides speedy answers to scientific problems, but also broadens the planet of possible questions on the conservation and sustainable utilization of biological diversity (Canhos et al., 1998). The above examples indicates the monitoring assessment of the status and trends in biodiversity using GIS.

In Pakistan the application of GIS in various fields is still not very common. Talking about its usage for biodiversity conservation, management and monitoring, it is just 5-7 years back. Departments like wildlife department of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhton Khawa, Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan and various NGOs like IUCN, WWF-P, SUPARCO are using this satellite based technology for conservation, management and monitoring of various ecological characteristics like distribution of flora and fauna, the population and the status of flora and fauna, the health of wetlands, national parks, game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. In addition to this GIS is also use now a days in Pakistan for land use purposes. According to this GIS based studies Garstang et al. (2003) categorized Wetlands of Pakistan into four broader ecological categories i.e., Montane and Alpine region, Semi-arid region, Arid region and coastal region.

The Wetlands Survey Programme Section (WSPS) of Pakistan Wetlands Programme is responsible to carryout nation-wide wetlands’ surveys on birds, mammals, fish, micro & macro invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, vegetation, and water quality, therefore, by using GIS all these biodiversity data along with their observers’ details and observation conditions are being maintained in a web-accessible database deployed at National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW), Islamabad. Pakistan Wetlands Inventory (PWI) data model integrates or collects the Wetlands Survey Programme and Wetlands GIS programme (Qamer, 2007) and the boundaries of all the protected wetlands were mapped into GIS format using government record, field data and GIS maps.

CONCLUSION

In Pakistan there is a need for more comprehensive approaches that deal with new satellite based programmes like remote sensing technologies and analysis in a GIS-environment, and that integrate findings collected over longer periods with the aim of prediction. It is also imperative to collect and integrate data from different disciplines of biodiversity. This is very essential in the spirit of sustainable development and conservation, management and monitoring of natural resources. In addition to this the use of GIS and other satellite based systems can save our time due to their fast actions and data taken is also considered more authentic and reliable.

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