August 2019
Welcome to the sixth edition of our newsletter highlighting innovation and frontier technologies around the globe. At MapX, we believe that nobody should be left behind in the digital revolution. Join us monthly to learn about new global initiatives harnessing technology for the sustainable use of natural resources, citizen science opportunities, upcoming webinars or trainings, and open source solutions. If you have stories you want to share, contact us here.

Case Study:
How Spatial Data Can Protect Wildlife?

A year ago, UNDP launched the UN Biodiversity Lab in partnership with UN Environment and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to support nearly 140 countries to use spatial data to better deliver on their global commitments to biodiversity and sustainable development. This project enables policymakers to access over 100 global spatial datasets on biodiversity, protected areas, sustainable development, and human pressure in a Geographic Information Systems-free platform, powered by MapX. After analyzing the 77 Sixth National Reports submitted to the UN Biodiversity Convention as of early June 2019, the UNDP team found that the number of maps in the reports has doubled, and 30 percent of those countries used UN Biodiversity Lab to produce at least one of their maps. 
Among those countries supported by UN Biodiversity Lab, spatial data are used to protect wildlife in diverse ways. Some best practices shared in the article include Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Haiti. The Haitian government, which has increased the country’s protected areas by 800 percent, and improved the management of existing ones. Explore how Haiti uses spatial data in conservation monitoring to manage biodiversity through a story map here.

News / Highlights

Geospatial Information is Key to Deliver UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 9th session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) was held during the first week of August at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. National and international geospatial experts gathered together to discuss how digital geospatial information management can help address key global and regional challenges that affect society and the planet, such as poverty, climate change, sustainable development, a digital economy, migration, security, and health. Read more here.
Development is encroaching on the forest in the state of Para in Brazil. Some 7500 square kilometers of forest were felled nationwide in 2018. Source: GALLO IMAGES/ORBITAL HORIZON/COPERNICUS SENTINEL DATA 2018/GETTY IMAGES

Satellite Data Shows Amazon Deforestation Has Shot Up by 278% Last Month

According to the new satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has increased by 278% in July 2019 compared with July 2018, the single biggest surge in rainforest destruction since INPE began the monitoring with its current methodology in 2014. The result is the destruction of 870 square miles (2,253 square kilometers) of vegetation, which is an area about twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. INPE, a public research institute based in São José dos Campos, has been tracking deforestation in the Amazon through satellite images since the 1970s. These data come from one of INPE’s monitoring systems, the Real-Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER), which generates an alert every time a new clearing larger than 3 hectares is detected in the forest canopy. It is designed to function as an alarm system and guide law enforcement on the ground, but it also yields rough tallies of new deforestation that are released weekly. Read more here.

Notre Dame captured by one SkySat satellite on April 2, 2019,  prior to the massive blaze that devastated the cathedral. Source: Planet

Brussels, PlanetScope, Jan 2017
Source: Planet

Apply now: European Space Agency To Utilize More Planet Constellations

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed an agreement with Planet to gain access to both PlanetScope and SkySat constellations. The aim is to have these tools complement data drawn from ESA’s own earth observation satellites and Third Party Missions, its multi-mission ground systems that are used to acquire, process, archive and distribute data from other satellites. The data from these missions is distributed under specific agreements with the owners or operators of the mission, following the ESA Data Policy. Prior to this agreement, ESA only had access to Planet’s RapidEye satellites under the EarthNet Programme. Now, education, research and early stage startups will benefit from working with both PlanetScope and SkySat to evaluate their research or business models. If you are one of those and interested in using their data for a noncommercial purpose, please inquire at, and will receive instructions on how to apply to the ESA portal. Learn more about the news here

Source: Civil Air Patrol - Kansas Wing

Innovative Approach to Flood Mapping Supports Emergency Management and Water Officials

 A new study from Jude Kastens, an associate research professor with the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program at the Kansas University Biological Survey, finally addresses the lack of real-time, wide-area predictions for floodwater extent and depth, an information gap that has plagued officials during previous major flood events. Kastens developed a model, called FLDPLN, or “Floodplain”, which maps potential inundation as a function of stage height by using basic hydrologic principles and gridded elevation data. The model doesn’t include many inputs or much supervision, therefore has an advantage over existing mapping methods like the more complicated (though, more precise) FEMA hydrodynamic models, which map 100-year floodplains. He hopes to automate the mapping process in order to lessen the amount of work officials must do when rivers and streams threaten to flood. Learn the details about the model here.  

Source: Future Cities website

Interactive Map Shows How Global Warming Will Impact Cities By 2050

While an increase in global temperatures in the coming future is an inevitability predicted by many, the Crowther Lab has explored how global warming will impact 520 cities around the world. The Lab has further matched the predictions with cities that currently experience those temperatures. To find out which city’s climate your native city will resemble in 2050 as a result of global warming, just click on your city on the Future Cities interactive map. When you click on a city on the map, along with the expected rise in temperature in the warmest and coldest months. According to the map, the sharpest temperature rise will be witnessed by St. Louis in Missouri, USA, with an increase of 3.6 degrees centigrade in annual temperatures. Read more here

                 Arctic digital elevation model (DEM).  Source: Blue Waters
NCSA to Help Build World’s Most Powerful Geospatial System

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced a new collaboration between the Blue Waters Project, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the University of Minnesota, and the Ohio State University to produce digital elevation models (DEM) of the entire Earth, among other geospatial research projects. NCSA will receive $11.1 million in initial funding from the NGA through the US National Science Foundation (NSF) for one year, to make Blue Waters the most powerful dedicated, non-classified geospatial system in the world, capable of bringing unprecedented speed and efficiency to global mapping, and fundamentally changing the way humans view the Earth. Learn more about the collaboration here

Scientific Corner 

Detecting Comma-Shaped Clouds for Severe Weather Forecasting Using Shape and Motion

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 2019; 57 (6): 3788

A team of researchers at Penn State, AccuWeather, Inc., and the University of Almería in Spain has developed a computer model that can help forecasters recognize potential severe storms more quickly and accurately. They have created a framework based on machine learning linear classifiers - a kind of artificial intelligence (AI) - that detects rotational movements in clouds from satellite images that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. This AI solution ran on the Bridges supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.  The researchers found that their method can effectively detect comma-shaped clouds with 99 percent accuracy, at an average of 40 seconds per prediction. It was also able to predict 64 percent of severe weather events, outperforming other existing severe-weather detection methods. Learn the details about their method in the published paper here

Call for Papers on “Educating for Water Resilience in the Context of Climate Crisis”

On March 22, 2020, the United Nations will mark World Water Day by focusing on the relationship between water and climate change. The Journal of Sustainability Education is pleased to be planning a March 2020 special issue, “Educating for Water Resilience in the Context of Climate Crisis,” to mark the occasion. The editors of this special issue seek submissions, including a wide range of academic literature, personal essays, media/book reviews, editorial pieces, photo essays, poetry, and other publishable works, that address the questions below among other related topics. Submission deadline is November 1, 2019. Details can be found here


Side-event at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Open-ended Working Group on Assessment of Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Use of Spatial Data in the 6th National Reports (6NR) to the CBD. During this workshop, discussion will focus on how to bridge the gaps to better position Parties to implement, monitor and report on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. After the workshop, UNDP and UN Environment will host a help desk that provides technical support to countries working to develop or apply the results of their 6NR. Agenda can be found here

Time: Monday, August 26, 10:00 - 13:00 

Venue: Conference Room 14 (Rooftop), UNON Campus, Nairobi, Kenya

New Zealand Geospatial Research Conference 2019

The Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau is going to organize the 2019 New Zealand Geospatial Research Conference in New Zealand from 18th – 21st September 2019. The conference will take place at the Queenstown Memorial Centre in Queenstown. The theme of the conference is “Finding our way to a better future”. It is being organized in conjunction with the 15th International Conference on GeoComputation with a motive to encourage both New Zealand and international visitors to attend both conferences. Ticket can be found here, sales end on August 31. 

Date: Wednesday-Saturday, 18 - 21 September, 2019

Location: Queenstown Memorial Centre, Queenstown Memorial Centre, Otago

Register Now

Americas Geospatial Forum invites nominations for  Awards

Americas Geospatial Forum (formerly Latin America Geospatial Forum) is inviting nominations for Americas Geospatial Excellence Awards. The Awards are open for projects implementing geospatial technology in sectors such as agriculture, natural resource management, urban planning and development, land information management, utilities, environment, infrastructure, citizen services, location-based services, etc., in the Americas. Registration for the conference is also open now. An early bird discount of 15% is on offer till August 15; after which full price registration will apply.

Date and Venue: 9-10 October, 2019, Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel, Mexico City, Mexico

Register Now
What is MapX?

Data has become the world’s most valuable and powerful resource. MapX supports the sustainable use of natural resources by increasing access to the best available geospatial data, technology, and monitoring tools. Backed by the impartiality and integrity of the UN, MapX is the first non-commercial platform that can power a variety of applications and websites with the best available environmental data as part of a global public good. MapX was developed by UN Environment and GRID-Geneva in partnership with the World Bank and UNDP.

We look forward to bringing you the best updates of 2019!

Newsletter writer: Yalun Jin & Xiaoyang Li
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