Digital cartography: a key ally for sustainability

May 7, 2024 | #Sustainable | 0 comments

Digital mapping is a fundamental tool for understanding environmental challenges and making informed decisions that promote sustainable development. Although cartography seemed like a dying discipline, paradigmatic changes around sustainability have revealed its importance.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs related to cartography in the country will grow by 19% until 2026. These data highlight that knowing the territory will be essential to establish successful strategies to reverse the environmental situation. We explain in greater depth what digital cartography consists of.

Differences between digital cartography and Geographic Information Systems

It is inevitable to link maps to those paper prints, difficult to store and complex to interpret, that accompanied us on trips in the past. However, digital cartography has revolutionized the way we represent and analyze the world around us. Now we can have dynamic, interactive and intuitive representations that allow us to explore, understand and make informed decisions about the changes that occur in the environment.

This discipline is based on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a specialized technology that allows capturing, storing, processing and visualizing geospatial data. While digital cartography is the final product, GIS is the tools used to create these advanced maps. Two correlated disciplines that allow increasing knowledge to respond to the needs of sustainability.

How is digital mapping applied to sustainability?

Digital mapping makes it possible to interpret geospatial data related to the environment, providing crucial information to predict and analyze strategies in relation to sustainability. Below we will discuss some of the applications that stand out:

  • Monitor the state of the environment: allows you to evaluate the health of ecosystems, air and water quality, deforestation, desertification and other key environmental indicators.
  • Identify risk areas: detailed analysis to identify areas vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods, droughts or forest fires, allowing the implementation of preventive measures.
  • Manage natural resources in a sustainable manner: facilitates the optimization of the use of water, energy and forest resources, promoting sustainable practices in agriculture, fishing and forestry.
  • Planning urban development: information to design more compact, efficient and environmentally friendly cities, promoting the use of public transport and renewable energy.
  • Combat climate change: understand the causes and effects of climate change, identify priority areas of action, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Diferencias entre cartografía digital y Sistemas de Información Geográfica

Digital cartography models

Carrying out digital mapping requires specialized tools. Google Maps is perhaps the most popular example as a result of its accessibility. However, there are many others whose use is common among professionals in the sector, such as QGIS, a free, open source and very complete GIS tool; o ArcGIS, professional and powerful GIS software used by large companies and institutions.

These tools serve as a basis for the creation and analysis of different digital cartography models, each with its own characteristics and applications:

Raster maps

They consist of a grid of cells, each with a value that represents a specific terrain characteristic, such as elevation, soil type, or vegetation cover.

Vector maps

Composed of lines, points and polygons that represent geographical features such as streets, rivers, borders or buildings.

3D maps

They represent the world in three dimensions, allowing for a more realistic and complete visualization of the terrain.

Interactive maps

They allow you to analyze specific regions live, launch joint visualizations for comparison and even detailed analysis of temporal events, among other functionalities.

Digital cartography and GeoAI, an indivisible binomial at the service of sustainability

As in other sectors, artificial intelligence (AI) shows great potential in this area. We cannot understand the revolution of digital mapping and GIS systems without geospatial artificial intelligence (GeoAI). This technology enables automated analysis of large volumes of geospatial data. In this way, we manage to obtain more precise and detailed information about our environment.

In this sense, GeoAI applied to digital cartography allows functionalities such as monitoring deforestation, identifying sources of water pollution, analyzing areas vulnerable to flooding or optimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the agricultural sector. Information that, without a doubt, allows us to improve decision-making around sustainability, as well as design efficient and effective strategies to fight some of the challenges facing the Earth.

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