Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Southwest China

University of Wisconsin-Madison NSF IGERT China Program

Proposals developed at the Workshop on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Northwest of Yunnan, China

Kunming August 8-18, 2002

Proposal VI:

GIS Database Development for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development

A-Xing Zhu, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jianguo Zhu, Guopeng Ren, Wei Wang, Kunming Institute of Zoology

Yuhua Wang, CBIK/Kunming Institute of Botany

Youxin Ma, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden

A GIS database depicting the spatial distribution of natural resources is not only necessary but also extremely important for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development activities. Such a GIS database will greatly facilitate researchers to study and understand patterns of spatial distribution and interactions of plants and animals over landscape; and to evaluate the impacts of human activities on these spatial patterns and interaction so that informed policy decisions can be reached and appropriate conservation/restoration strategies can be designed for the given area.

Northwest part of Yunnan is an area of high biodiversity. It contains many endemic plant and animal species (such as Taxol and the snub-nose monkeys). Recently rapid economic development in this region has posed tremendous threats to the biodiversity of this region. Efforts on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development have been called for this area. These efforts in turn call for the compilation of a comprehensive GIS database characterizing the spatial distribution of plants and animals as well as spatial distribution of various human activities.

Our long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive spatial database, to support research on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development using GIS (such as finding Gaps for conservation of plants and animal species), and to provide a GIS-based platform for policy making and for public participation in conserving biodiversity and sustainable development over the Hengduan Mountain Range.

We propose to develop a GIS database for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development activities for the Northwest Yunnan province (the Hengduan Mountain area). The entire study area consists of two parts: the core area covering four counties in Yunnan: DeQin, WeiXi, Shangrila, LiJiang and the peripheral covering another four counties: GongShan, FuGong, NingLang, LanPing. The scale for the entire area will be 1:250,000 for a regional perspective, the scale for the core area is 1:100,000 for meso-scale level study, and the scale for a few selected watersheds (in WeiXi and Shangrila counties) is 1:50,000 for detailed analysis. The contents of database include physiography (such as topography, hydrography, climate, vegetation types), biodiversity (distributions of key plant and animal species), and socio-graphy (such as current land use activities and distribution of minority groups). Our emphasis is on the compilation, creation, and distribution (sharing) of spatial data layers relevant to the depiction and understanding of spatial variation of biodiversity and the impacts of human activities over the area.

Our activities include compilation and archiving of existing digital/analogue data (such as topographic data, socio-economic data, and field observations), development of techniques for characterizing the spatial distribution of soils, vegetation types, and techniques for predicting the distribution of specific plant and animal species. We will also work with field ecologists to geo-reference their field observations so that location based analysis of these observations can be conducted and prediction based on these observations can be appropriately made.

In addition we will work with an interdisciplinary group of researches not only to address their data needs but also to answer ecological questions related to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development over the Northwest Yunnan Province. These questions include, not limited to:

  • Study the habitats of Snub-nose monkey and other endangered/endemic plant and animal species, and the scale effect on the characterization of these habitats
  • Study the interaction of natural and human boundaries over the landscape and lifescape in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  • Study the mechanics of landscape patterns in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  • Study the relationships between vegetation patterns and the environment
  • Study the land use/land cover change on biodiversity conservation.
  • Estimate the energetics, growth, and reproduction potentials of wild animals over landscape
  • Explore the optimal combination of domestic animals in terms of manure production as fertilizer in agricultural landscapes.
  • Prediction of changes of plant/animal distributions over landscape due to climate changes and land use changes.
  • Study the interaction of animals (predator and prey species) on landscape across habitats.
  • Identify optimal localities for new human economies suited to local minorities
  • Assess the impact of policy on biodiversity conservation
  • Identify areas of high productivity and high biodiversity
  • Assist the study of evolution of fauna and flora through the provision of spatial distribution of certain species and the distribution of certain genes
  • Serve a mean for local community for their participation in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development

Through this project we will address the following researches that are of interest to the broad GIS and ecological communities:

  • Study the scale effect, that is, what would be the appropriate scale for characterizing environmental conditions for biodiversity research
  • Develop approaches to quantify uncertainty in spatial data, to improve data quality, and to assess the impacts of uncertainty in spatial data on policy decisions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development
  • Address the sampling density issues, that is, how many sample points are needed for a certain level of accuracy. Much of the study area is very difficult to access, it is very necessary to develop techniques to minimize filed sampling and maximize the quality (representativeness) of field samples.
  • Develop data mining techniques for discovering knowledge on biodiversity and other environment conditions. These techniques will allows us to extrapolate the potential spatial distribution of endangered plants and animals over the entire study areas using knowledge-based GIS approaches.

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