WWF & Eyes on the Forest
In 2011, camera traps set by WWF and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry captured footage of an impressive 12 tigers, including tiger cubs frolicking in the central Sumatran landscape of Bukit Tigapuluh, also known as Thirty Hills. Excited by the presence of these tigers and concerned because they were living in a forest slated for deforestation, WWF created a Google Earth narrated tour telling the story of the deforestation in Bukit Tigapuluh. Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of Sumatran NGOs, then decided to distribute information about deforestation and disappearing habitats on the island to a broader audience using a new mapping tool called Google Maps Engine.
Spurred on with a Google Earth Outreach Developer Grant, WWF hired developer David Tryse to build for eyesontheforest.or.id, a catalog of maps rich with information about the change in Sumatra's forest cover, tiger, elephant, rhino and orangutan ranges, floral diversity and carbon stocks over time.
How they did it
Google Maps Engine offered Eyes on the Forest a platform to host their vector data, avoiding the expense of servers and server administration. Once the GIS data was online, they could be styled and edited, and maps comprised of several layers could be developed and iterated upon.
Using PHP, developer David Tryse synched Google Spreadsheets with Google Maps Engine maps and composed a site with two levels of legends that users can explore. Not only is the site data-intensive, but the visuals and descriptive text make it easy for users that are unaccustomed to exploring GIS data easy to navigate and explore.
WWF and Eyes on the Forest are excited to release these maps within a storytelling platform to brief viewers about the magnificent conservation values of Sumatra. They also hope to educate viewers about the history and impacts of deforestation on Sumatra. As the project continues, they will demonstrate how global commodities are changing the landscape, often in violation of existing rules and regulations. Members of the public – such as commercial buyers of palm oil and paper products from Sumatra – will be able to ground truth corporate claims of sustainable production without leaving home by creating their own maps with suppliers' land holdings related to loss of forest, carbon stocks and biodiversity.