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Celebrating Earth Day with Conventional and Unconventional Applications of Geospatial Technology: Part 2

3 Unconventional Earth-friendly Applications of Geospatial Technology

After talking about some of the more conventional methods of implementing geospatial technology to help our planet in part 1, today’s article will focus on some more unconventional methods. At first, these applications of geospatial technology may not seem critically important for protecting and managing the earth, but after further inspection, we think you will see just how game-changing they can be for the health of the planet, and all of its inhabitants.

Precision technology for accurate mining and efficient farming

Traditionally, resource extraction and cultivation have been wasteful processes that have been made more efficient with increasing technical capabilities [7]. Looking at two industries that often endure the most abuse when it comes to this wastefulness, we can see how geospatial methods are improving the fortunes of these industries we so heavily rely on.

If we are to continue our technological reliance, we will need mining to provide precious metals that are found in everything from cell phones to cars. Precision mining makes use of GIS technology such as 3D scenes created from LIDAR to monitor and manage mine sites, while also providing the ability to enhance the analytical methods used in interpreting geologic structures [8]. This increased understanding can lead to more accuracy in mineral targeting, resulting in decreased environmental damage and ecological disturbance during extraction processes. This is certainly a win for conservation and leads to more sustainable mining practices [8].

A 3D LIDAR scan of an open pit mine. (lidarsolutions.com.au)

Geospatial technology is also used to track and map crop growth, soil moisture, and other factors that affect agricultural health. This enables farmers to see things that even the most skilled eyes cannot see, giving them more complete insight into the health of their farms [9]. By generating vegetation indices using remotely sensed data, farmers may construct precise, effective plans for their operations, reducing input waste and adverse environmental effects while also cutting expenses [9]. These methods are now being complemented by further technological advances such as the combined ML / AI sensors that help monitor nitrogen levels in the soil to further increase farm and fertilizer efficiency, and agricultural productivity. These geospatial advances have a considerable influence on the health of local ecosystems by lowering fertilizer and soil runoff into nearby waterways, resulting in cleaner, healthier watersheds that we can all enjoy.

Illustration of GIS data being used in Precision Agriculture (www.cavalieragrow.ca)

Wildlife conservation and biodiversity protection

Animal movement tracking and habitat distribution are all made possible by GIS technology. With GPS collars, conservation authorities are better able to understand the movements and patterns of wildlife populations [10]. This can inform effective decision-making when it comes to creating environments in which all species can thrive, reducing the chances of lethal animal-human interactions, like the work done identifying the increased risks male hedgehogs face crossing roads in the UK. This is particularly important as we begin to realize the impact just one keystone species can have on an ecosystem.

Animal Tracker is a free app that can be installed on smartphones. It enables anyone to document their own animal observations and make them accessible to the scientific community. (icarus.mpg.de)

I’m sure many of us have heard about how the reintroduction of wolves completely changed the landscape of Yellowstone National Park. By observing the unintended impacts of what seemed like such a minor change at the time, we realized how little we know about the ins and outs of ecosystem dynamics. Seeing how fragile life can only reiterate the need for the protection of wild spaces and wildlife, as the looming biodiversity crisis can threaten us in ways we have yet to imagine [11].

By utilizing geospatial technology and analysis to gain a deeper knowledge of these problems, we can better protect, manage, and conserve healthy wildlife populations and prevent a catastrophic collapse of biodiversity. The 2006 study by Diaz et al. concluded that “based on the available evidence, we cannot define a level of biodiversity loss that is safe”. [11] Given this, we must utilize the geospatial technologies at our disposal to the fullest in order to locate opportunities for biodiversity protection and restoration.

Energy management and optimization

Businesses wanting to maximize their energy production and reduce their environmental effect might benefit greatly from GIS technology. It makes it possible to map and track renewable energy resources to maximize energy output and monitor their distribution [12]. Additionally, this technology can be utilized to track and control energy usage, find opportunities for savings, and boost effectiveness.

Mapping global annual average wind speed at 30m height with IRENA’s Global Atlas tool is just one of the many layers available for analysis. (globalatlas.irena.org)

The use of GIS in predictive modeling for the generation of energy can be used to forecast demand and spot possible problems like shifts in consumer behavior or weather patterns. This enables companies to proactively modify their energy production and distribution methods. For organizations trying to make wise choices that increase their bottom line while promoting a more sustainable future, the use of GIS in energy management is essential [13].

The Law of Comparative Advantage suggests that countries should specialize in producing goods and services they can produce more efficiently than others [14]. By applying this principle to energy generation, we can use geospatial technology and models to optimize energy production and create a stable energy grid. Different regions have comparative advantages in energy resources like solar, wind, or water. By utilizing these resources, we can reduce dependence on any one energy source, making the grid more resilient. By using GIS to assess global resource and power generation capabilities, we can optimize energy resources and create a more efficient and reliable energy grid that meets the needs of people and businesses on a national or international level.

Summing up the conventional and unconventional

GIS technology has become an indispensable tool for environmental management, with a wide range of applications demonstrated in these articles, including both conventional and unconventional methods. As technology continues to advance, GIS is expected to play an even more crucial role in protecting the Earth and preserving its natural resources. The versatility of geospatial technology makes it an asset in addressing various environmental challenges, such as climate change, resource depletion, and habitat degradation. The role the geospatial industry can play is vital for ensuring a sustainable future, and its continued development and implementation are essential for safeguarding our planet for generations to come.

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