Environmental Management

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 596–605 | Cite as

Implications of Spatial Data Variations for Protected Areas Management: An Example from East Africa

  • Nicholas DowhaniukEmail author
  • Joel Hartter
  • Sadie J. Ryan


Geographic information systems and remote sensing technologies have become an important tool for visualizing conservation management and developing solutions to problems associated with conservation. When multiple organizations separately develop spatial data representations of protected areas, implicit error arises due to variation between data sets. We used boundary data produced by three conservation organizations (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Resource Institute, and Uganda Wildlife Authority), for seven Ugandan parks, to study variation in the size represented and the location of boundaries. We found variation in the extent of overlapping total area encompassed by the three data sources, ranging from miniscule (0.4 %) differences to quite large ones (9.0 %). To underscore how protected area boundary discrepancies may have implications to protected area management, we used a landcover classification, defining crop, shrub, forest, savanna, and grassland. The total area in the different landcover classes varied most in smaller protected areas (those less than 329 km2), with forest and cropland area estimates varying up to 65 %. The discrepancies introduced by boundary errors could, in this hypothetical case, generate erroneous findings and could have a significant impact on conservation, such as local-scale management for encroachment and larger-scale assessments of deforestation.


Conservation GIS Protected areas Uganda 



This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (CNH-EX 1114977) Grant. The MODIS MCD12Q1 data product was obtained through the online Data Pool at the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), USGS/Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Dowhaniuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joel Hartter
    • 2
  • Sadie J. Ryan
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Forest BiologySUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  4. 4.Center for Global Health and Translational Science, Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyState University of New York Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuseUSA
  5. 5.College of Agriculture, Engineering, and Science, School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa
  6. 6.Department of Geography and Emerging Pathogens InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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