zondag 15 september 2013

Anthropocene plant biodiversity data added to Selborne


Recently I added some data on terrestrial ecoregions to Selborne. It was a valuable addition but the information it conveys is not instinctively recognizable from the ground. For instance: it groups The Netherlands into one ecoregion with large parts of Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France. I wouldn't dare to argue with its justness as a concept but, from the point of view of an individual mapping his personal environment, ecoregions are an abstraction to the point of uselessness. Especially from a Dutch perspective where the 'Mixed Atlantic Forest' that it is supposed to contain simply does not exist.

A welcome addition to Selborne therefore is the 'Plant Biodiversity in the Anthropocene' data provided by Erle Ellis & colleagues at the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology. I blogged about this earlier.

The original shapefile converted to a 12.8Mb GeoJSON file which I divided in 6 separate files each containing the data for each of the ecozones that the file provides (Palearctic, Nearctic, Neotropics, Afrotropics, Indo-Malay, Australasia). I had to split the Paleartic file again into North and South to keep file-size modest. Each file is between 1 and 3 Mb and is loaded as a layer on top of the standard map. Find the links in the menu under the logo under the datasets header. Give your browser time to parse.


What is nice about the data is that a lot of information is given for each area/cell/hexagon. When you load the data it will not give you the immediate visual buzz that makes maps attractive, but once you hover over a cell 13 different types of information are displayed.


There is information on main land use, land cover and population density. But the real meat of the thing is in the data on native species richness, species loss, and invasive/introduced species. By comparing data for each cells you can get a good view on where the human hand has been most effective in changing the native plant composition. 

The best source for detailed information on the data is the original paper.

This is data that to me appears to describe the world in a way that would be clearly visible if you were at a given area. 

It is possible to look at this data using the different maps Selborne offers under the layer-menu. Sudden jumps in numbers (be they for population density, urbanity or species richness) between adjacent cells can sometimes be understood by viewing it with a  topographic or relief map at the background.


My personal motivation for doing Selborne was the desire for a tool that would allow me to track invasive plants in my own neighbourhood and novel ecosystem/anthropocene work was what inspired me. So I am very happy with the inclusion of this data.   

Citation: Ellis, E. C., E. C. Antill, and H. Kreft. 2012. All is not loss: plant biodiversity in the Anthropocene. PLoS ONE 7:e30535. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030535.

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