Geography is crucial in the field of conservation science where most data is spatial and location-based. Thus, it is a discipline that asks what is where and why we should care.
“Where can we find the critically endangered Haring Ibon and what are we doing to protect it?”
“Where do fishers cast their nets and what specific species of fish do they catch?”
“Are there still native trees in the country’s urban areas and are people aware of them?”
Through the Geographic Information Systems (GIS), these questions can be answered. Utilized by the Haribon Foundation, the system is an organized collection of hardware, software, personnel and methods used to acquire, analyze and display geographical data.
Recently, GIS practitioners from the government and private sectors gathered to share their stories at the 2016 Philippine ESRI User Conference organized by Geodata Philippines at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas, Pasig City. The author was given the opportunity to present how Haribon leverages GIS in Haribon’s biodiversity conservation projects.
One example is the Road to 2020 Movement, Haribon’s initiative to restore forests using native trees. Before going to fieldwork, we‘ll inspect satellite imagery of the vicinity to identify candidate restoration sites and then mark them on the map. This practice reduces the time our foresters will need to spend on ground validation because they will already know exactly where to go.
In Haribon’s Tree Trek and Tag, a partnership with the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation to raise awareness about native trees among the general public, we can identify and locate native trees in the city through information crowd-sourced from social media. By geotagging or associating location to photos submitted by the public, we are able to map out the native trees in the city.
In Darwin Initiative 19-020, a collaboration with Newcastle University that looks into fish extirpations, we are using GIS software to transform data from interviews with fisherfolks into fishing density maps. Data from thousands of respondents may not make sense even when arranged in tables or graphs, but spatial patterns will be quickly revealed in a visual map.
Aside from biodiversity conservation, GIS is used in a wide range of applications such as in energy and water distribution, disaster risk reduction and management, as well as in building and road construction.
The conference highlighted how GIS is a versatile tool used by different sectors of society in different industries. It’s also a powerful system that should be an integral part of an operation so progress have physical evidence and data which can be used for other projects or operations in the area. This technology lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to strategize our next move.
In Haribon Foundation, we don’t stop at just mapping out Haring Ibon sightings or native trees tagging, for example. Technologies like GIS provide a fountain of information that, when analyzed properly, will help stakeholders make better plans and decisions so we can properly manage and ensure greater impact in conserving biodiversity.