GIS and Natural Resource Management

Geographical information systems (GIS) have an imperative role to play in natural resources (NR) research to support rural livelihoods, in exacting, and pro-poor development more generally.

Before proceeding, first let us see what do we mean by Natural resource?
Natural = Ordinary; Resource = supply or reserve. We characterise sunlight, atmosphere, water, land, minerals, vegetation and animal life that co-exist on or within the earth as naturally occurring materials or resources.

A natural resource may be a collective unit such as fresh water, and air or individually countable as a living organism such as a fish, rodent etc. It may also exist in a form which must be processed to obtain the resource such as metal ores, mineral oil, and most forms of energy.
The economic, social and cultural feasibility of any nation is mainly determined by the land and water resources that it has. These natural resources are crucial to the economy of a nation since they play a vital role in the stipulation of employment, they are a source of raw materials for various industries, act as a source of food and income, medicine as well as energy. The artistic beauty that relates to natural resources is always regarded as the civilising illustration of nations.

  • Agriculture: Land Conservation, Farm Planning, Precision Farming.
  • Forestry: Timber assessment management, harvest scheduling and planning, forest planning and environmental impact assessment, pest management.
  • Wild Life: Habitat assessment and management, rare species studies.
  • Geology and Mining: Geologic hazard mapping, oil, gas and mineral studies, open pit mine design.
  • Watershed Management: Guidelines for Regulations.

So the above mentioned are some of the application of GIS in the field of natural resources. But it is said that nothing comes for free. So there are some current problems which we are facing in this area (Natural Resource). So let’s see one by one what the problems are:

Current Problems in Natural Resource Management
  • Habitat loss/endangered/exotic species
  • Unsustainable resource use/extraction
  • Terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric pollution
  • Climate change
  • Population growth

Role of GIS in Natural Resource Management

As we know GIS is a powerful analytical tool and in natural resource management, GIS is mainly used in the Mapping Process. These technologies can be used to develop a variety of maps. These are:
  • Land Cover Maps
  • Vegetation Maps
  • Soil Maps
  • Geology Maps

Now before developing these maps, we need variety of data to be collected and analysed. These data are collected with the help of the remote sensing technologies, by various methods like Aerial Photography, Ground Photographs. Or satellite Photographs of the particular study area. These Photographs usually depend on the topography of the area and the aim of the study. Like, Aerial Photograph is useful when we need the information regarding spatial data within intervals (hours, days, and seasons). Likewise, Satellite Photographs are also useful in collection of data, but satellite data is superior to aerial, as they have better Resolution (Spectral, Spatial, Radiometric and Temporal). Hence satellite images give us detailed information and lot of data can be extracted from them.

Ground authentication of the collected data is a vital method. To ensure that it is carried out in the most efficient and competent manner, the study area is usually separated into quadrants or transects. This is done to make sure that the interpreted elements of the satellite data be conventional to the ground description. The data that is collected on the ground is geo-referenced with the help of a GPS to ensure that its matching location can be precisely recognised in the images that were collected earlier. Moreover, field points recognised in the images are visited to verify information regarding the state of the vegetation, geomorphology, topography, soils, and so on. By means of using the pre-field map that was generated, information from ground authentication procedure and any other secondary source that might have been used, the final map is usually equipped.

With the increase in demands on Natural Resource due to mounting human population, remote sensing and GIS can be used to manage these limited resources in an effectual and competent manner. Geospatial data are effective in the analysis and purpose of factors that affect the utilisation of these resources. Thus, with the perceptive of these factors, sound decision can be achieved to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources to meet the needs of present generation as well as that of the future.

Read More:
Geographical Information System in Transportation Planning
What is GIS and How Does it Work?
Environmental Impacts of Global Warming

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