Tag Archives: map

Partial success in reducing global maternal death rate

Globally maternal deaths are decreasing.  The rate at which mothers die during childbirth has been reduced by about 40% since 1980, but this is not enough to meet the Millennium Development goal of reducing maternal mortality 75% from 1990 levels by 2015.  However, 23 countries are on track on meet this goal.

Afghanistan is the worst country, with a high death rate and little improvement – 1,575 women die for every 100,000 live births, while Italy has only 4 deaths per 100,000. The figures below showing the global trend, the rate in countries, and changes in the rate are from article by Margaret Hogan and others Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980—2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5 (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61345-8):

Vavilov and AgroDiversity

Vavilov centers of origin (1) Mexico-Guatemala, (2) Peru-Ecuador-Bolivia, (2A) Southern Chile, (2B) Southern Brazil, (3) Mediterranean, (4) Middle East, (5) Ethiopia, (6) Central Asia, (7) Indo-Burma, (7A) Siam-Malaya-Java, (8) China. Figure from Wikipedia.

Russian agricultural geneticist and biogeographer Nikolay Vavilov, is scientically famous for proposing that centres of endemism of crop relatives point to the origin of food crops, and being martyred by Soviet Lysenkoism.  Furthermore, he established the Lenigrad seed bank that was maintained by its staff throughout World War 2’s 28-month Siege of Leningrad, despite their starvation.

American localvore, MacArthur Fellow and ethno-agro-ecologist Gary Paul Nabhan author of Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine reflects on What is the Relevance of Vavilov in the Year 2010?:

I sit overlooking Saint Isaac’s Square, a few hundred meters where Nikolay Vavilov managed the first and perhaps the most massive effort in human history to document and conserve the world’s food biodiversity. I have had the rare opportunity of seeing the seedbank in the basement of Vavilov’s institute, and of leafing through the herbarium where one can see the master’s hand on collections of plants from the deserts, the steppes and the rain forests. And I have seen the photos there of those who perished while protecting the seeds for the benefit of all of humankind.

If any scientist wished to be inspired to a higher cause, perhaps no one was more equipped to do so than Nikolay Vavilov. He was breathtakingly handsome and elegant yet field-worthy; he was visionary, yet articulate and a lover of detail; he was charismatic, tireless and intense, yet approachable. He would listen to farmer, muleskinner, camel drover and evolutionary biologist, and absorb their stories.

And yet, what ultimately inspires us today to continue with such efforts is not Vavilov’s ghost from the past, but the promise of a more equitable and nourishing food community for the future. We hope that our children and their children beyond them will eat well without damaging the very soil and soul of the earth itself.

And we know that in the recent past, some forms of agriculture have done such damage. Since Vavilov’s time, we have lost three-quarters of the former genetic base of our crops and livestock, squandering the diversity of flavors and fragrances by assuming that fossil fuel and fossil groundwater could be consumed without end to produce more food. Today, agriculture is responsible for generating half of the human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases to grow our food and fiber. We can do better. We can wean ourselves from our addictions to fossil fuel and groundwater, but only if we renew our commitment to wisely steward the natural resources and the cultural wisdom that has accumulated in our agricultural landscapes over the last ten millennia.

With rapid global climate change upon us, we need a greater diversity of seeds, breeds, fruits and roots out in our fields, adapting to the dynamic conditions there, more than ever before. Food diversity is no longer a luxury; its careful use and stewardship are once again a necessity if we are to feed future generations so that they can not survive but thrive. Vavilov pointed the way; we must not dwell so much on him as a signpost, but to where he was pointing.

Mapping global flows of virtual green and blue water

Green and blue virtual-water ‘flows’ related to wheat trade by major exporting and importing nations (km3/year). The size of each pie is determined by the amount of virtual water ‘traded’. Countries with virtual-water ‘exports’ are depicted in green and countries with virtual-water ‘import’ in red;<br /> the colour shade depends on the quantity of virtual water ‘traded’. Period 2000–2004.
Green and blue virtual-water ‘flows’ related to wheat trade by major exporting and importing nations (km3/year).
The size of each pie is determined by the amount of virtual water ‘traded’.
Countries with virtual-water ‘exports’ are depicted in green and countries with virtual-water ‘import’ in red; the colour shade depends on the quantity of virtual water ‘traded’. Period 2000–2004.

M.M. Aldaya, J.A. Allan and A.Y. Hoekstra in their paper Strategic importance of green water in international crop trade (Ecological Economics 2009) doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.11.001 map global flows of virtual water in the wheat trade.

In their paper they explain their figure:

The map presented in Fig. 6 shows the virtual-water ‘flows’ to the five major importing countries for wheat for the period 2000–2004.

By ‘importing’ virtual water embodied in agricultural commodities, a nation “saves” the amount of water it would have required to produce those commodities domestically.

Though from an importing country perspective it is not relevant whether products have been produced using green or blue water in the country of origin, from a global point of view it has important implications (Chapagain et al., 2006a). For instance, Egypt is the largest importer of wheat, with the USA providing about 45% of the country’s imports. Wheat from Egypt has an average virtual-water content of 930 m3/ton of which 100% is blue water (Chapagain et al., 2006a), while the USA has a virtual-water content for wheat of 1707 m3/ton of which 39.8% is blue water (Table 3).

By importing wheat, Egypt saves 930 m3 of water per ton of wheat. Globally, when imported from the USA, there is not a total water saving because wheat production in the USA requires more water than in Egypt. Exports to Egypt from this country result in a considerable net global water loss of 777 m3 per ton. However, if we just look at blue water only, importing wheat from the USA to Egypt saves 251 m3/ton (since USA production requires 679 m3/ton of blue water and wheat production in Egypt 930 m3/ton).

Along these lines, Egypt, as some other water-scarce importing countries, has formulated policies to import low value but high water consuming food like cereals (Van Hofwegen, 2005). Nevertheless, even if the potential of trade to “save” water at national level is substantial, most international food trade occurs for reasons not related to water resources (CAWMA, 2007).

Maping global virtual waters flows

Fig. 4. World map of virtual water exports. (a) Total virtual water exports (flows exceeding 10 km3 yr−1 are shown); (b) flows of virtual water exports originating from blue (irrigation) water (flows exceeding 1.0 km3 yr−1 are shown); and (c) virtual water exports originating from nonrenewable and nonlocal blue water (flows exceeding 0.5 km3 yr−1 are shown).
Fig. 4. World map of virtual water exports.
(a) Total virtual water exports (flows exceeding 10 km3 yr−1 are shown);
(b) flows of virtual water exports originating from blue (irrigation) water (flows exceeding 1.0 km3 yr−1 are shown); and
(c) virtual water exports originating from nonrenewable and nonlocal blue water (flows exceeding 0.5 km3 yr−1 are shown).

Figure is from Hanasaki and others paper An estimation of global virtual water flow and sources of water withdrawal for major crops and livestock products using a global hydrological model (2009 Journal of Hydrology) doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.09.028.

They explain the figure:

The estimated flows of virtual water exports and imports in 2000 by nation were aggregated into 22 regions worldwide (Table 9; Fig. 4) to show net exports between regions.

Fig. 4a shows the virtual water export flows for all water sources. The figure indicates that North and South America were major regions from which virtual water export flows originate; East Asia, Europe, Central America, and West Asia were the major destinations. This pattern of flows agrees with the studies of (Oki and Kanae, 2004), (Yang et al., 2006) and (Hoekstra and Hung, 2005).

Fig. 4b shows the virtual water exports of blue water (withdrawn from streamflow, medium-size reservoirs, and NNBW sources), and

Fig. 4c shows the virtual water exports of NNBW. Most major flows of blue water and NNBW originated from North America and South Asia.

Interestingly, South America was the major total virtual water exporter but a minor blue water exporter because less cropland is irrigated on this continent.

Notably, South Asia, which is densely populated and where demand results in water scarcity (Oki and Kanae, 2006 and Hanasaki et al., 2008b), showed blue and NNBW virtual water export flows. [note: NNBW – is non-renewable and non-local blue water.]

Mapping the world’s ‘intact’ forests

In the latest issue of Ecology and Society, Peter Potapov et al’s article Mapping the world’s intact forest landscapes by remote sensing. (Ecology and Society 13(2): 51). Shows a new map of global forests – showing the “intact forest” areas that are not directly transformed by human action.

World's intact forest

The world’s intact forest landscapes (IFLs): IFL (green), Forest zone outside IFL (yellow).

The authors define an intact forest area as:

as an unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, showing no signs of significant human activity, and large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained. Although all IFLs are within the forest zone, some may contain extensive naturally treeless areas, including grasslands, wetlands, lakes, alpine areas, and ice.

The data can be downloaded from the projects website as tiff, google earth, or shapefiles.

Compared to other global forest areas assessments the authors found:

  • significantly less intact area in boreal forests than the World’s Wilderness Areas analysis (McCloskey and Spalding 1989) and the Frontier Forests analysis (Bryant et al. 1997) because of our more recent data allowing us to capture the effect of the expansion of oil and gas extraction infrastructure in Canada and Siberia, as well as the role of extensive human-caused fires accompanying industrial development of northern forests.
  • more intact areas in dense tropical forests (the Amazon and Congo basins) and in boreal mountains (southern and eastern Siberia, Kamchatka, Alaska, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains) than was found in previous studies based on coarse-scale map and expert data analysis.
  • the Human Footprint data set (Sanderson et al. 2002), which finds a significantly larger area to be intact within boreal regions and the southern part of the Amazon Basin in Brazil. Both areas were developed (by industrial logging and oil and gas extraction in Canada and Russia, and by agricultural clearing in Brazil) in recent decades, and these changes were not captured in the Human Footprint assessment.
  • in some regions (i.e., Central Africa, boreal forests in Siberia and Canada) we found a smaller area to be intact than the Human Footprint map because we classified burned areas in the vicinity of infrastructure as not intact.
  • The Landscape Domestication Analysis by The Nature Conservancy, which relied on existing transportation network maps, also overestimated the intact area (Kareiva et al. 2007).

Geography and Genes

From the New York Times reporting on an article by Oscar Lao and others in Current Biology:

A genetic map of Europe

The map shows, at right, the location in Europe where each of the sampled populations live and, at left, the genetic relationship between these 23 populations. The map was constructed by Dr. Kayser, Dr. Oscar Lao and others, and appears in an article in Current Biology published on line on August 7.

The genetic map of Europe bears a clear structural similarity to the geographic map. The major genetic differences are between populations of the north and south (the vertical axis of the map shows north-south differences, the horizontal axis those of east-west). The area assigned to each population reflects the amount of genetic variation in it.

Data for the map were generated by gene chips programmed to test and analyze 500,000 sites of common variation on the human genome, although only the 300,000 most reliable sites were used for the map. Dr. Kayser’s team tested almost 2,500 people and analyzed the data by correlating the genetic variations in all the subjects. The genetic map is based on the two strongest of these sets of correlations [the principal components used to plot the data above – these explained 31.6% and 17.3%, of the total variation.  The potential geographic basis of these two PCs was supported by a positive correlation (r2 = 0.6) between the genetic and  geographic distances among the samples.].

The gene chips require large amounts of DNA, more than is available in most forensic samples. Dr. Kayser hopes to identify the sites on the human genome which are most diagnostic for European origin. These sites, if reasonably few in number, could be tested for in hair and blood samples, Dr. Kayser said.

Genomic sites that carry the strongest signal of variation among populations may be those influenced by evolutionary change, Dr. Kayser said. Of the 100 strongest sites, 17 are found in the region of the genome that confers lactose tolerance, an adaptation that arose among a cattle herding culture in northern Europe some 5,000 years ago. Most people switch off the lactose digesting gene after weaning, but the cattle herders evidently gained a great survival advantage by keeping the gene switched on through adulthood.

Archetypical landscape of the USA

Jeff Cardille at the University of Montreal has a project METALAND that is eveloping more sophiticated ways of characterizing landscapes.  He presented some of his work on archetypical landscapes of the USA at the current Ecological Society of America meeting.

Jeff Cardille 17 archetypical landscapes of USA

On Nature’s blog Emma Morris report’s on his talk From the bright green soy field to the rolling blacktop…this land was made for you and me:

What is the typical landscape of the United States? Jeffrey Cardille, of the University of Montreal wondered the same thing. He may be in Montreal now, but he’s from the US of A, and a big Woody Guthrie fan. Guthrie, in his alternative national anthem “This Land is Your Land” invoked the “redwood forests,” the “gulf stream waters” and so on. But could it be that the archetypal US landscape these days is rather a cornfield or a brand new subdivision?

To find out, Cardille used an algorithm called “affinity propagation”, made famous in this Science paper by Frey and Dueck. As Cardille explains, the algorithm is “a way to find representative samples in complex datasets.” In the Science paper, it was used to create clusters of faces the same people out of a sea of photographs. Each cluster was organized around a central exemplar photo.

Cardille used the same method on landscape data from the National Land Cover Data Set, and metrics extracted from the dataset with a program called fragstats. He gridded the lower 48 off into 6 km by 6 km squares and then let the algorithm rip on the data—5% at a time due to computing power limitations.

What emerges on any one of the runs are something like 17 exemplar squares, real chunks of the landscape that best represent the totality of the landscape. Predictably, of the 17 in the run he presented, 13 are human dominated—row crops, clear cuts, urbanizing suburban land, and the like. Two are carefully managed national parks. Just two are more or less running themselves. One of these is a square of the vast shrub-lands of Texas.

Using the web to track disease outbreaks

HealthMap an interesting global health alert system that was recently accounted in a PLoS Medicine article Surveillance Sans Frontières: Internet-Based Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence and the HealthMap Project (Brownstein et al 2008).  They explain the motivation for the project:

As developed nations continue to strengthen their electronic disease surveillance capacities [1], the parts of the world that are most vulnerable to emerging disease threats still lack essential public health information infrastructure [2,3]. The existing network of traditional surveillance efforts managed by health ministries, public health institutes, multinational agencies, and laboratory and institutional networks has wide gaps in geographic coverage and often suffers from poor and sometimes suppressed information flow across national borders [4]. At the same time, an enormous amount of valuable information about infectious diseases is found in Web-accessible information sources such as discussion sites, disease reporting networks, and news outlets [5,6,7]. These resources can support situational awareness by providing current, highly local information about outbreaks, even from areas relatively invisible to traditional global public health efforts [8]. These data are plagued by a number of potential hazards that must be studied in depth, including false reports (mis- or disinformation) and reporting bias. Yet these data hold tremendous potential to initiate epidemiologic follow-up studies and provide complementary epidemic intelligence context to traditional surveillance sources. This potential is already being realized, as a majority of outbreak verifications currently conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network are triggered by reports from these nontraditional sources [5,6]. Summary Points

In one of the most frequently cited examples [9], early indications of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Guangdong Province, China, came in November 2002 from a Chinese article that alluded to an unusual increase in emergency department visits with acute respiratory illness [9,10]. This was followed by media reports of a respiratory disease among health care workers in February 2003, all captured by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) [10,11,12]. In parallel, online discussions on the ProMED-mail system referred to an outbreak in Guangzhou, well before official government reports were issued [13].

These Web-based data sources not only facilitate early outbreak detection, but also support increasing public awareness of disease outbreaks prior to their formal recognition. Through low-cost and real-time Internet data-mining, combined with openly available and user-friendly technologies, both participation in and access to global disease surveillance are no longer limited to the public health community [14,15]. The availability of Web-based news media provides an alternative public health information source in under-resourced areas. However, the myriad diverse sources of infectious disease information across the Web are not structured or organized; public health officials, nongovernmental organizations, and concerned citizens must routinely search and synthesize a continually growing number of disparate sources in order to use this information. With the aim of creating an integrated global view of emerging infections based not only on traditional public health datasets but rather on all available information sources, we developed HealthMap, a freely accessible, automated electronic information system for organizing data on outbreaks according to geography, time, and infectious disease agent [16].

Wired news writes:

HealthMap … creates machine-readable public health information from the text indexed by Google News, World Health Organization updates and online listserv discussions.

While aimed at public health workers, HealthMap is also usable by the general public. It locates the outbreaks on a world map and creates a color-coding system that indicates the severity of an outbreak on the basis of news reportage about it. Users of the site can then analyze and visualize the data, gaining unprecedented views of disease outbreaks.

By doing it all with publicly available news sources and low operating costs, the service itself remains free. After a small-scale launch in 2006, the site’s model and potential attracted a $450,000 grant last year from Google.org’s Predict and Prevent Initiative, which is focused on emerging infectious diseases.

It would be great if a similar systems could be used to map and monitor environmental change.