News and Notes

Mapping Half-Earth with Scientific Chair Walter Jetz

Walter Jetz, Scientific Chair of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and lead scientists behind the Half-Earth Project Map, addresses the 19,000-strong Esri User Conference audience via video during E.O. Wilson’s keynote on July 8, 2019.

Text of video with Walter Jetz:

If we want to prevent species from extinction, we need to carefully manage remaining untouched lands. Land use change is probably the number one threat that biodiversity is facing.

The Half-Earth Project is an initiative to identify and help protect the places where biodiversity is most at threat from extinction. Species are the elements that are behind a healthy planet. The macaw—they’re beautiful animals as you see them flying over the rainforest canopy. The great green macaw is one of the few species that are able to carry large seeds. These trees have important economic value to life that lives there. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer of these birds exist.

So, understanding where that species might be impacted by future land use in the region is absolutely vital.

The Half-Earth Map sets out to provide a specially specific map of conservation priorities. We humans want to advance our economies. Change is not a bad thing necessarily. What would be a bad thing if you’re not smart about how and where we are changing. Often it’s just been the information that’s been lacking.

Here at Yale, another project, Map of Life provides science supporting the Half-Earth Project, and in particular, species by species spacial information. It’s bringing together students from Yale, scientists and a whole set of collaborators to develop information that feeds the Half-Earth Project.

As you go on the Half-Earth Map website, you’ll be able to look at biodiversity priority patterns, existing reserves, and human pressures. You’ll be able to see the global scale, the 3D globe, as well as all the way down to the local scale at the landscape level in as high as high a spacial details as possible.

For example, hummingbirds, you’ll get to appreciate both the larger global geography of this group—it’s obviously restricted to the Americas. You can go in here and then really differentiate the places just a few kilometers apart that may support 20 or 50 species of hummingbirds and then perhaps just one a few locations over.

We’re really excited to work Esri and the Half-Earth Project. Through that detail and engaging visualizations that we are able to get biodiversity into the decision making. If you would like to help the Half-Earth Project, I encourage you to engage. You may be able to vitally contribute through mapping that you’re doing that you directly can support better conservation decision making.