The GIS Behind iMapInvasives: The “Open Source Sandwich”
Invasive species can be considered an ecological “time bomb” that contributes to a number of human and environmental problems, including reduced crop and livestock production and biodiversity loss. It is estimated that 5,000 acres of western lands become infested each day (North American Weed Management Association 2002). Westbrooks assesses the financial costs to Americans at $138 billion per year. Of the current methods for treating invasive species, Early Detection and Rapid Response (ED/RR) is highly ranked because it is cost-effective and environmentally sound and it increases the possibility of successful eradication (ibid).
For ED/RR to be effective, land managers must have access to comprehensive and accurate data. Tracking invasive species is challenging because multiple agencies and organizations collect data, often resulting in isolated datasets. In addition, each agency uses its own collection format. Sensitive and unverified data add further complications. Land managers need to see the “big picture,” which often crosses political boundaries and results in differing ideas concerning collection and dissemination techniques.
To facilitate collaboration, iMapInvasives.org was created as a versatile mapping tool to serve the needs of land managers, conservation planners, and agency decision makers. Internet Geographical Information Systems (IGIS) provide collaboration and networking capabilities that were previously unavailable with desktop GIS. Data are collected from multiple agencies and Users can access data from all sources, regardless of the original data format. There are other useful features such as customizable Early Detection notifications and restriction of sensitive data from users with less system authorization.
iMapInvasives uses an “open source sandwich” approach to IGIS. The “sandwich” uses mostly open source technologies, but the middle layer, or map, may contain images produced from commercial products. Together, these complementary components provide the robustness required for tracking invasive species with ample flexibility for customization.
While the challenges facing iMapInvasives are specific to invasive species management, the conceptual and technological issues presented here apply to any area of data collection and dissemination. This chapter gives an overview of the internal workings of the system and details some of the features that are unique to invasive species tracking.
KeywordsGeographic Information System Invasive Species User Level Structure Query Language Spatial Query
Thanks to Meg Wilkinson of the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) for her vision of this project and her skill in managing its direction. Thanks also to the members of the iMapInvasives Executive Committee for their guidance and insights. Thanks to Stephen Hodge and Erik Hazzard of the Florida Resources and Environmental Analysis Center (FREAC) of the Florida State University (FSU) for their keen eye for details, technical support, and GIS/programming skills.
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