Explore the Forests of the Southern USA with Web GIS Tools from the World Resources Institute

Through http://www.seesouthernforests.org’s interactive Web GIS tools, you and your students can learn about trends and threats to forests, including suburbanization, fire, pests, and climate change. In collaboration with Creative Change Educational Solutions, the World Resources Institute has created a set of teacher guides to help integrate the Web GIS resources into biology, geography, earth science, and environmental science courses. Explore the distribution, variety, and status of the southern forests via the Map Gallery, which features maps on tree communities, protected areas, ownership, timber production, and via the Web GIS resources. The Web GIS tools include Bing Maps for base layers as well as layers generated in ArcGIS served with ArcGIS Server, covering the area from Virginia to Texas. Thematic layers include protection, fragmentation, drivers of change, and example solutions for sustainable forests. All maps can be exported and shared.

Examining forests challenges preconceived notions: Is fire always “bad”? What are its benefits in terms of forest health? Examining forests challenges assumptions about change: Yes, many areas have converted from forest to agriculture, but some areas have reverted from agriculture back to forest. What is the biggest threat to the extent and health of forests, in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries, and today? Is it suburbanization, logging, fire, pests, pathogens, climate change, agriculture, hurricanes, or something else? How have southern forests and land cover changed over the decades, by region, and also within individual counties, and why? What is the future of these forests and how can people affect this future in positive ways? One of my favorite components of this Web GIS is the ability to compare current satellite imagery with that from 1975, 1990, and 2000, and to examine single pieces of land at a large scale over time. A KML containing the data layers can be downloaded from the site and used in a virtual globe such as ArcGIS Explorer.

I invite you to use this resource to teach and learn about forests, change, and much more.

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

Tom Baker

About Tom Baker

Tom Baker is an Esri Education Manager, specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teacher education, and educational research. He regularly publishes and presents on geospatial technologies across education.
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