Ramsar sites added

Posted on September 20th, 2010 in General by Alta

Last week we  told you about new “critical habitats” on the Google Earth layer and brought you Biodiversity hotspots, Endemic bird areas and Carpe landscapes. This week we’re publishing the first of the Ramsar wetlands to the layer – specifically, we bring you sites for Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkino Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea.

Ramsar sites take their name from the city in Iran where, in 1971, a number of governments undersigned the Ramsar convention on wetlands of international importance.  Initially, there were 18 signatories. Today, there are 160.

Wetlands provide fundamental ecological services and are regulators of water regimes and sources of biodiversity at all levels. They constitute a great economic, scientific, cultural and recreational resource, and play a vital role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Each signatory undertakes to  maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance - or designated “Ramsar sites” – and to plan for the sustainable use of all the wetlands in their territories.

Find out more about Ramsar sites and why they’re important from the video below – and have fun exploring them geographically on Google Earth! We look forward to bringing you the next batch soon.

Wetlands provide fundamental ecological services and are regulators of water regimes and sources of biodiversity at all levels. They constitute a great economic, scientific, cultural and recreational resource, and play a vital role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. In 1971 the convention on wetlands was signed in Ramsar, Iran. This intergovernmental treaty provided the framework for the international conservation of wetlands and their resources, to which end wetlands of significant international importance were identified as Ramsar sites. There are presently 158 contracting parties to the convention, and 1831 Ramsar sites, totaling 170 million hectares

A cleaner conservation layer – with critical habitats!

Posted on September 10th, 2010 in General,New Content by Alta
As we started to populate the African conservation landscape, we quickly realized that that clutter on the map would be a problem. You’ll remember back in February that this was resolved by “hiding” projects, blogs and points at a lower “altitude” in Google Earth, which simply meant that you had to zoom in to see this content.
Switching over to “live” layer meant that we lost the ability to“ hide content at different altitudes for a little while, but you’ll see that the much cleaner look for the layer has returned now, along with points and blogs.  You’ll only see countries and protected areas when you open the layer – but just zoom in a little bit and you’ll see projects, points, and blogs pop up again.
Finding Projects, Blogs and Points:
Here are a few tips to find projects, points and blogs on the layer
1. Use the side panel
2. Look in the “projects” tab of “protected areas” and “countries”
3. Zoom right in with “click to see more”
For more on how to use the layer, have a look at the MAPA Introductory video:

As we populated the Google Earth Conservation layer with more and more content, we quickly realized that the map was becoming too cluttered. You’ll remember back in February that this was resolved by “hiding” projects, blogs and points at a lower “altitude” in Google Earth, which simply meant that you had to zoom in to see this content.

Switching over to a “live” layer meant that we lost the ability to “ hide”content at different altitudes for a little while, but you’ll see that the much cleaner look for the layer has returned now, along with points and blogs.  Thus, when you open the layer and are zoomed far out,  you’ll only see countries and protected areas, but just zoom in a little closer and you’ll see projects, points, and blogs pop up.

out

LITTLE

zoomedout

If you’re looking for specific protected areas or projects – remember that you can also find these by expanding the categories in your “my places” panel. You can also fly to project bubbles from the “project” tabs of protected area and country bubbles, as shown in the example below.

findingstuff

For more on how to use the layer, have a look at the MAPA Introductory video:

Biodiversity hotspots, Endemic Bird Areas and CARPE landscapes added to the layer
Biodiversity is not equally distributed on earth: there are areas that are of special significance because they contain a particular rich diversity of species, or is home to species that occur only in limited areas. Several organizations have identified such areas – and very often they don’t fall within the boundaries of protected areas.
There are different types of these ‘critical habitats’ – ranging from the “sites” defined as important bird areas, key biodiversity areas and ramsar sites, to landscapes spanning large landscapes, even across several countries.
As of today, you can find three “categories” of these areas on the MAPA layer: Biodiversity hotspots, Endemic Bird Areas and CARPE landscapes.
Here is a bit more information on the three new additions:
Biodiversity hotspots: There are eight of these areas, identified by Conservation International in Africa.. A biodiversity is an area of exceptional levels of plant endemism and serious levels of habitat loss.  To qualify as a hotspot, a region must contain at least 1500 species of vascular plants as endemics and it has to have lost at least 70% of that original habitat.
Have a look at this video from Conservation International that explains how biodiversity hotspots are chosen – and why they’re important.
CARPE Landscapes:  The Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) is a long-term initiative by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to address the issues of deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Congo Basin forest zone through efficient natural resource management in 12 landscapes in six Central African countries. These landscapes are defined as priority areas for conservation based on the species that they represent, the overall integrity of the landscape, and the resilience of ecological processes within it.
We hope that you enjoy the changes to the layer, and the new content. Please let us know your thoughts!

Biodiversity hotspots, Endemic Bird Areas and CARPE landscapes added to the layer

In addition to the cleaner layer, we’re also bringing you a whole new category of information on the layer today, collectively called “critical habitats”.

Species are not equally distributed on earth: there are areas that are of special significance because they contain a particular rich diversity of species, or species that have limited ranges and/or are severely threatened.  Several organizations have identified such areas (often outside official protected areas) using the best science on offer. There are different types of these ‘critical habitats’ – ranging from the “sites” defined as important bird areas, key biodiversity areas and ramsar sites, to much larger areas spanning landscapes across several countries.

We have now added the first three of these  “categories” to the layer: Biodiversity hotspots, Endemic Bird Areas and CARPE landscapes.  Read about these areas, the species that make them unique, and the measures taken to protect them. Want to know more? Simply visit the official fact sheets by clicking on the links in the bubbles.

CARPE

We hope that you enjoy the changes to the layer, and the new content. Please let us know your thoughts! In the mean time, have a look at this video from Conservation International that explains how Biodiversity hotspots are chosen and why they’re important.

Going “live” – our latest newsletter

Posted on September 2nd, 2010 in General,Newsletters by Alta

After five months of threatening to make a public layer available where new content (added by you) could be (almost) instantly available, we’ve finally made good on our promise.  No need to download the layer again if you’ve already done so – simply refresh the old layer in your Google Earth client to see the new data.

Speaking about progress – here’s what you can expect to see on the newest version of the map, and what we’ve been up to since March:

Countries and Protected areas added

We’ve now completed the entire African National Park network and have added more than 300 new bubbles to the map.  We’ve also included even more links to information on areas that are also important bird areas or key biodiversity areas. Although we focused on the National Parks to start of with, we’re committed to ultimately putting all Africa’s protected areas on the map.  Have we skipped an area that you have information are or think should be on the map? Please let us know!

Feburary

july

A new way to view Polygons

In the last version of the layer, the polygons and roads for protected areas were visible upon loading the layer.  These data have now been included in the project bubble itself (see below). Clicking on “click to see more” button  will lay down the polygon and roads for that protected area and will zoom you into the points, blogs and projects for that area. Whereas we had completed mapping southern and east Africa before starting to build the later, mapping for central and west Africa has only just started. This means that for many areas we still have very incomplete road- and polygon- data. Can you help to complete the map? Or are you interested in volunteering to do of some of the mapping in these areas? Click  here to find out more…spots are rapidly being filled up.

polygons

Better Content for East and Southern Africa

We’ve edited all the content from east and southern Africa, and in some cases have replaced content completely. Thanks to contributions from third parties, we’ve been able to improve information and polygons from several protected areas, including the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.

More Projects:

We’ve been holding off on putting projects up whilst we were improving our third party technology – we hope that it is now much easier to add a project to the database. Please let us know your thoughts! There are several exciting developments in store for projects…more on this later. In the mean time, have a look at the 85 projects or so that have already been added to the layer. Thank you to all who have already added content!

More “footprint” stories in Google Earth

One aspect of the layer that we are really excited about is the ability for people to tell the stories of their study sites and species and the plights they face on Google Earth. These stories include Google Earth tours, Image overlays, mini-layers and GPS tracks. We call these stories “footprints” – wherever you see the little footprint (as shown below), you can click to see a spatial story in Google Earth.

FootprintsIf you like this content, and you wonder how you can create stories like these for your project, you can get started on doing this right away!It’s easy, and Google Earth Outreach has created a series of really easy tutorials that will guide you step by step in achieving the story you wish to tell.

Google Earth/Maps Workshops

Speaking of creating content in Google Earth – on the 7th of May we held our first Google Earth/Maps training with eight conservationists (and a few other people listening in) at the University of Cape Town.  As far as possible we stuck to examples that the attendees were familiar with: their own work!

If you want to see who attended the workshop, what we got up to, and what material we created in and after the workshop, you can visit our workshop site here. You’ll find links to all the tutorials we worked through in the workshop, as well as links to many more resources from Google Earth Outreach.

We’re planning a host of workshops later this year in the Western Cape, South Africa. If you’re interested in attending these, or receiving updates about when and where these will take place, please let us know!

Collaborations across Africa and the world

We keep saying that the story of conservation in Africa is not MAPA’s story to tell – and we stand by that! Over the last few months we’ve been befriending the master story tellers – NGOs and individuals who work across the continent in African Conservation.

In addition, we recently attended the 24th ICCB in Edmonton, Canada where our goal was to introduce the project to the conservation community, and seek advice as how to we might develop it further to become useful to conservation practitioners working across Africa. We came away from the meeting encouraged that the project is addressing two pressing needs in conservation: to organize information on conservation actions and to visualize conservation effort and translate dry information to policy makers and the general public.

How do we plan to do this? We want to build a layer that enables conservation practitioners to tell the story of conservation areas and actions in Africa to the world, but also to each other. We are busy adding additional fields to our project input screens, and turning the database into a searchable resource for conservationists,  standardizing actions into categories of threats, action types, habitats, species studies, project capacity, affiliations etc. which could be used as search criteria to find conservation actions and areas.  The layer will still be the public face of these actions, and in addition to the big layer with everything on it, we’re also hoping to allow people to create their own, customized layers by turning the results of their search queries and filters into a Google Earth file.  We’ll keep you updated about these developments!

Thank you!

As always…the project is completely dependent on the involvement of Africa’s conservation community. A big that you to everyone who has pitched in so far! A special thank you to the folks from Google and Google Earth Outreach for their support and help. Please let us know your comments and suggestions…and check back for more developments on the projects regularly.

- The MAPA Project team

MAPA article in Quest Science magazine

Posted on September 1st, 2010 in General,Media by Alta

Quest – Science for South Africa is a quarterly publication of the Academy of Science for South Africa. It is a popular science magazine which is distributed to selected schools and institutions. The magazine aims to highlight the achievements of South African scientists and to stimulate an interest in science and its importance in society among South African youth and the general public.

The latest edition, available here, carries an article on the MAPA Project.  Here is an excerpt:

“However hard you look, you won’t find a website that tells you everything you want to know about Africa’s parks and wildlife reserves. That’s surprising since this continent is the only one with significant populations of large mammals – the so-called megafauna.

There are a few of reasons why no-one can tell you how many parks there are, or what’s in them, but the most important one is that no-one knows.

The MAPA Project was initiated in an attempt to put that right. In association with Google Earth (probably the best online mapmakers), Tracks4Africa (probably Africa’s best GPS mapmakers), and conservationists all over Africa, this project hopes to change the way the world sees this continent….”

“However hard you look, you won’t find a website that tells you everything you want to know about Africa’s parks and wildlife reserves. That’s surprising since this continent is the only one with significant populations of large mammals – the so-called megafauna.
There are a few of reasons why no-one can tell you how many parks there are, or what’s in them, but the most important one is that no-one knows.

The MAPA Project was initiated in an attempt to put that right. In association with Google Earth (probably the best online mapmakers), Tracks4Africa (probably Africa’s best GPS mapmakers), and conservationists all over Africa, this project hopes to change the way the world sees this continent….”

Read the full story here