All Projects

  1. Mapping recent deforestation in northeast Madagascar


    Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, Carnegie Institution for Science, World Wildlife Fund, University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University Center for the Environment

    Since the onset of a political crisis in 2009, there have been widespread and increasing reports of illegal activities in Madagascar’s national parks, including deforestation, logging of precious hardwoods, mining, and poaching of endangered species. From 2008 to 2009, for example, trade records show that exports of rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) from Madagascar to China, the world’s largest consumer of Malagasy hardwoods, nearly tripled. This increase is generally attributed to illegal logging in Masoala and Marojejy protected areas in northeastern Madagascar following a transfer of presidential power in March 2009, which has been widely characterized as a “coup d’état”.

    Despite the attention this issue has received in the press, since the coup there have been few attempts to quantify the rate and magnitude of these changes in Madagascar's national parks. This is due to the fact that these areas are often extremely remote, and many of the changes to the forest are too small to be detected by traditional remote sensing methods.

    In this study we demonstrate new methods for mapping deforestation and small-scale forest disturbance in Masoala national park. We find the rate of forest change in 2010-2011 within the study area (1.27%) to be higher than the most recently published annual deforestation rate for all of Madagascar. This result is particularly alarming given that Masoala has the highest level of legal forest protection in Madagascar, and highlights an important and persistent problem within Madagascar’s largest national park.

    See full study published in Tropical Conservation Science.

    Tags: monitoring, Madagascar, CLASlite, deforestation, forest disturbance, illegal logging, protected areas

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  2. REBIOMA maps


    Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, University of California, Berkeley

    This map application shows a snapshot of biodiversity data derived from species distribution models hosted on the REBIOMA data portal. This is a prototype of mapping and data interaction tools we are working to integrate on top of the data portal.

    The is a simple application written in Rails, html and javascript, with a CartoDB hosted spatial table, backed by a postgres database on Heroku. The code is available on GitHub.

    We model species distributions for three eras from public and private occurrence data uploaded by many individuals and partner institutions.

    After validation and review of the occurrence data by teams of taxonomic experts, we use MaxEnt to model species distributions from the database, using forest cover and WorldClim climate data for 1950, 2000 and 2080 as predictors. For 2080, we assume that forest cover remains the same as it was mapped in 2000 (an optimistic scenario). We then apply a presence threshold to each model, and use the result to build the map of species richness and a species list for each era, shown here. Richness and species lists are calculated on a 5x5 km grid.

    REBIOMA is a joint project Wildlife Conservation Society Madagascar, and the University of California Berkeley with support from the MacArthur Foundation and the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. For more information, please see the project page, data portal, and help pages.

    Tags: biodiversity informatics, Madagascar, REBIOMA, web mapping

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  3. Marine spatial planning, Madagascar


    Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, University of California, Berkeley

    The Government of Madagascar has committed to increase marine protected area coverage by over one million hectares. To assist this process, we compared four methods for marine spatial planning of Madagascar's west coast. Input data for each method was drawn from the same variables: fishing pressure, exposure to climate change, and biodiversity (habitats, species distributions, biological richness, and biodiversity value). The first method compares visual color classifications of primary variables, the second uses binary combinations of these variables to produce a categorical classification of management actions, the third is a target-based optimization using Marxan, and the fourth is conservation ranking with Zonation. We present results from each method, and compare the latter three approaches for spatial coverage, biodiversity representation, fishing cost and persistence probability.

    With this work, we show that methods based on Zonation and a simple combination of variables can produce results comparable to Marxan for species representation and catch losses, demonstrating the value of comparing alternative approaches during initial stages of the planning process. Choosing an appropriate approach ultimately depends on scientific and political factors including representation targets, likelihood of adoption, and persistence goals.

    To read more, see full article published in PLOS ONE

    Tags: conservation planning, Madagascar, Marxan

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  4. REBIOMA data portal


    Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, University of California, Berkeley

    The mission of the REBIOMA web portal is to serve quality-labeled, up-to-date species occurrence data and environmental niche models for Madagascar’s flora and fauna, both marine and terrestrial. REBIOMA is a project of WCS-Madagascar and UC Berkeley. The REBIOMA Data Portal address is

    REBIOMA serves species occurrence data for marine and terrestrial regions of Madagascar. Following data upload, data is automatically validated against a geographic mask and a taxonomic authority. At upload, data providers can decide whether their data will be public, private, or shared only with selected collaborators. Data reviewers can add quality labels to individual data records, allowing selection of data for modeling and conservation assessments according to quality. Data users can query data in numerous ways (see simple and advanced search). REBIOMA also produces and serves environmental niche models for current and future climate scenarios for terrestrial and marine species.

    Tags: biodiversity informatics, Madagascar, data portal, biodiversity, REBIOMA

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  5. Unmanned aerial vehicles


    Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society, Madagascar

    Since 2011, we've been experimenting with a variety of small, inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for conservation. These platforms have included a hexacopter (Mikrokopter) and several arduplane models (e.g. Bixler with APM 2).

    To date our focus has largely been mapping and aerial photography, but these platforms have tremendous potential for monitoring forest cover, mapping tree height, tracking wildlife, change detection, environmental enforcement, and other applications.

    We have also been experimenting with a variety of methods to generate georeferenced ortho-mosaics and 3D models from data collected, including Agisoft Photoscan,, and simple mosaics with tools like Microsoft ICE. Preliminary results include the following. A fly-through of a 3D model from Maravolonana, Madagascar near Makira Park, and mosaics from the KAFS field station, the FOFIFA forest reserve near Kianjavato, Madagascar, and a small farm near Maroantsetra, Madagascar.

    Tags: monitoring, UAVs, aerial photography, orthomosaics

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  6. Global Priority Setting


    Clients: US-AID EGAT/NRM.

    For this project I developed an ArcView-based tool for ranking and displaying areas according to their biological value. Unlike optimization tools such as Marxan, the tool produces rankings of two-dimensional areas (e.g. countries, ecoregions) in map and list form. First, the users provide attributes (e.g. species richness and endemism) and optional weights. The tool then calculates rankings by arithmetic combination using a Euclidean distance measure.

    This tool was recently used in two global biodiversity priority-setting exercises. In the first case, WWF-US used the tool to explore and evaluate ecoregions based on attributes such as species richness, endemism, and degree of protection. A 2005-2006 reorganization of their global programs was informed, in part, by the results of this exercise. In the second example, USAID recently used the tool for a similar exercise to rank countries by biological value. USAID is using the results to inform budgetary allocations for biodiversity conservation.

    Publication on Ecoregions: Olson D.M., Dinerstein, E., Wikramanayake, E.D., Burgess, N.D., Powell, G.V.N, Underwood, E.C., D'amico, J.A., Itoua, I., Strand, H.E., Morrison, J.C., Loucks, C.J., Allnutt, T.F., Ricketts, T.H., Kura Y., Lamoreux, J.F., Wettengel, W.W., Hedao, P. and Kassem, K.R. 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:11 pp. 933-938.

    Tags: conservation planning, global, priority setting

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  7. Guianan Moist Forests


    Clients: WWF-Guianas; WWF-US.

    The Guianan Moist Forests are a WWF "Global 200" priority ecoregion. Stretching across almost 550,000 km² of Northeastern South America, these tropical broadleaf forests, though relatively under-explored, are among the richest in the world in terms of plant and animal species. Unlike many lowland tropical forests today, however, the Guianan Moist Forests are relatively undisturbed. Close to 90% of the ecoregion remains in a natural state.

    In the mid-2000's I worked with the WWF-Guianas program and local partners to develop a joint terrestrial-freshwater "Conservation Vision" for the Moist Forest ecoregion. This involved collecting spatial data for focal species, helping to produce an ecoregion-wide vegetation classification, developing a GIS and MARXAN-based methodology for identifying and mapping priority landscapes, and providing GIS trainings for local staff and partners.

    We used MARXAN to develop a series of potential conservation scenarios for the ecoregion. Each scenario meets focal conservation targets and differs in compactness, target levels, and overall "cost" calculated using a measure of human impact and access.

    See also: Schipper, J., G. Clarke, and T. Allnutt. 2007. Conservation Planning in a Tropical Wilderness: Opportunities and Threats in the Guianan Ecoregion Complex. In: Watson, A., Sproull, J., Dean, L., comps. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: 8th World Wilderness Congress symposium: September 30–October 6, 2005; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-49. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

    Tags: conservation planning, Guianas, WWF

    Posted almost 8 years ago.
  8. Biodiversity database and monitoring system, The Gambia


    Clients: Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, The Gambia; The Global Environment Facility (GEF); WWF-Senegal.

    The Gambia’s coastal and marine biodiversity is nationally and internationally significant and provides important ecosystem services to local communities. Although a set of conservation areas is currently in place to safeguard this heritage, biodiversity resources in the region face considerable and increasing pressure from a human population expected to grow at an annual rate 3-4% into the foreseeable future and nearly double to 2 million people by the year 2025.

    Coastal systems are under particular threat: 91% of The Gambia’s population lives within 100 km of the coast, and these coastal populations are increasing in number and density. Population density in The Gambia is already among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. It is well known that coastal ecosystems (e.g. mangroves, wetlands) provide important direct and indirect environmental services to people, supporting fisheries and preventing coastal erosion for example. Human activities having direct and indirect impacts on these resources are also well documented. For example, urban encroachment, industrial development, increasing agricultural activities, fuelwood extraction and over-harvesting have all been cited as threats to the Tanbi Wetland Complex, a recently designated Ramsar Site within the vicinity of Banjul in the Western Division. In short, coastal resources are finite. As human population grows in size and density in The Gambia’s coastal zone, it will likely increasingly impact the coastal resources on which it increasingly depends.

    Protecting The Gambia’s coastal resources so that they continue to provide services to people over the long term without degradation will require active and balanced management of the ecosystem. Biodiversity – the sum of biological resources in the coastal zone, from mangroves to local freshwater fish – is the immediate source of resources on which people depend. Effectively managing these resources, therefore, requires consistent, organized and relevant data to measure status and trends of biological resources over time.

    To this end, we have designed a biodiversity monitoring system and database with several main components. These are:

    • Focal targets, such as marine turtles, selected through a consensus-driven process
    • Quantitative conservation goals for each focal target
    • Indicators designed to quickly assess and communicate progress towards goals
    • Monitoring programs to collect necessary data and measure progress over time
    • Monitoring databases and other technical tools, such as GIS and remote sensing, for data analysis and storage

    The final report for this project may be downloaded here:
    Allnutt, T.F., Dia, I.M. and Touray, O. 2007. Biodiversity Monitoring System and Database for The Gambia. Unpublished report. 47 pp.

    Tags: monitoring, The Gambia, database, biodiversity informatics

    Posted almost 8 years ago.