Online tool helps users map the costs of conserving Amazon forests

Photo courtesy of Neil Palmer/CIAT

BOGOR, Indonesia (7 October, 2011)_Decision makers attempting to develop plans for managing land use and ecosystem services in the Amazon can now get a helping hand from Mapaz, an interactive online map.

Mapaz helps decision makers and scientists to better target their research and development or conservation activities in the Amazon by pulling together spatial information on elements such as deforestation, biomass, species diversity, population, poverty and regional land use.

Users can define a geographic area in the map (or use areas defined by existing administrative boundaries, such as municipalities) and get spatial information for that area in the form of maps and tables – with little or no knowledge of geographic information systems required.

“By combining the knowledge of users with information on deforestation, biomass, and land use, Mapaz allows users to estimate the local costs and benefits of conserving any area of threatened forest land,” explains scientist Jan Börner, who helped develop the map through his work with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

More often than not, forests have to give way to agricultural land uses that produce food, fibre and energy. However, valuable ecosystem services, such as global and regional climate regulation, provision of habitat, and food and shelter for local people, are lost though this deforestation.

To better manage the balancing act between these alternative uses of forested land, policy makers need information about where and why land use change is happening, and how it is affecting ecosystem services.

Mapaz is therefore a very useful tool to help in the research, planning and design of public policies and initiatives to conserve natural resources for ecosystem services management in the Amazon.

The online tool is particularly useful for researchers and practitioners who work on ecosystem services management, payments for environmental services, and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Such people are increasingly reliant on spatial information to strengthen the impact of their work.

Guidance is available to help users organise data and maps for reports and presentations, as well as for evaluating information needed for making decisions and developing new initiatives in the Amazon.

The Mapaz tool is in its third phase of improvements, and will continue to be tailored to support those who use it most. Börner believes that there are many potential future applications of the online tool: “Because of its focus on ecosystem services and population, Mapaz could be updated to provide information on ecosystem-based climate change adaptation.”

Using funding from the World Bank, Mapaz was collaboratively developed by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and CIFOR for the Amazon Initiative. The initiative unites the national research institutes of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela with four international research centres (ICRAF, CIFOR, CIAT and Bioversity International) to boost sustainable development research in Amazonia.

Mapaz is now available online.

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