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Restoring Horizons - Geographic Information Systems.

Ecoregional integrated natural resource management (INRM) can be even more difficult to comprehend than it is to say. The volume and complexity of the data that go into an ecoregional INRM study-- routinely combining elements from an array of scientific disciplines-- make synthesizing results a great challenge.

A valuable tool for such interdisciplinary studies is mapmaking with geographic information systems (GIS), which allows scientists to layer wide-ranging data into compact, analyzable packages. "GIS is a computer-based technology for integrating maps and data, both biophysical and socioeconomic, from various sources," explains Suan Pheng Kam, IRRI's GIS specialist. Combining aerial photography, satellite images, existing statistical data, and field interviews on a single map can reveal patterns of interconnection that may otherwise escape the notice of researchers.

"GIS also makes it easier for scientists to present the results of complex models to local authorities," adds Kam. "This allows them to understand how their decisions affect what farmers can do with their land, water, and other resources."

In Bac Kan, the SAM program is experimenting with sketch maps and 3-D modeling, developed with the participation of farmers, to forge village- and watershed-level GIS tools that are easier to read than conventional maps. The goal is to find a common spatial language for scientists, farmers, and other local stakeholders.

As the United Nations marks the International Year of Mountains, SAM's innovative research techniques and methods such as GIS are making upland agriculture in Vietnam more viable and helping to secure the food safety of future generations.

----P.F.

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Author:Fredenburg, Peter
Publication:World and I
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:253
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