Mapping Conservation for the Tree Bank

Photo: Tree Bank Co-Directors, Manolo and Cosme, walking along the forest edge of a Credit Reserve.

I didn’t want to let Chris have all the fun with Tree Bank blog posts, so I thought I’d quickly share some of the work I’ve been doing with GIS (Geographic Information System). This is still a work in progress, so if you revisit this blog post at a later date it will have changed as I add more data, correct and tidy up what we have, or it may be offline if I’m working on it. You will be able to find the most recent version on our Tree Bank Mapping page.

Below is a very simple map that will give you a sense for our conservation activities in the Dominican Republic. Each point represents a single plot that is enrolled in one of our land conservation programs. The most numerous, in pale green, are our Credit Reserve plots, where farmers enroll extant forest into a conservation easement in exchange for a line of credit. The blue dots represent Reforestation Plantings where we directly subsidize the planting and maintenance of degraded areas to return them to forest and buffer existing natural areas. The large dark green dot is our Tree Bank Reserve which we purchased to permanently enter into conservation.

A few caveats about the map to keep in mind as you play with it:

The points are taken at a rough center reading of each plot. Because of steep terrain, dense vegetation, and minimal surveying it is difficult to get an exact boundary for every plot. In the coming years we hope to add this data so we can show you exact dimensions for every plot.

The diameter of the points gives you a hint about the size of the conservation plot, but are not true-to-size. That is, just because a dot covers a certain area, that does not mean the easement covers the entirety of that dot. Many of these easements are complex polygons that follow the contours of the forest, so are difficult to represent as points (see above). The different sizes are there to help you visualize the data and get a general sense for where the largest plots are. If you click on a plot, along with the owner’s name, the area of each plot is given in tareas (roughly 1/7 of an acre).

Not all our conservation activities are represented on this map, but we’re adding data as we get it. Cosme and Manolo (Tree Bank Co-Directors) have been sending us GPS coordinates, but they have to physically visit every site to get an accurate reading. All of these are on privately held land so they generally need to schedule their visits with the owner or their family, and many of these sites are difficult hikes through dense underbrush. Currently, we have GPS data for about three quarters of the Credit Reserves, but fewer than half of the Reforestation Plantings, and nothing yet for our Rising Forests Coffee groves.

So, without further ado, here’s the map. Feel free to zoom in and out, scroll around, and a get a sense for the surroundings.

Now that you’ve had a chance to look at the map and have a feel for the area I want to draw your attention to a few interesting features:

Notice how the Reforestation Plantings (blue dots) are near Credit Reserves (pale green). This isn’t by accident. Land entered into Credit Reserves tend to be ecologically valuable, either high-quality secondary growth or occasionally old growth and often riparian. By creating Reforestation Plantings adjacent to these sensitive areas we buffer them from inadvertent damage (if you think deer damage is bad, you haven’t seen what escaped cattle can do!) and mediate edge effect on those plots.

The location of our Tree Bank Reserve is also important. It’s difficult to tell since we only have point data, but the 45 acre Reserve links up with about a dozen Credit Reserves to create a large, nearly contiguous, stretch of land being conserved. This stretch of land is still has a lot of edge instead of interior forest, but it’s a start to creating the kind of network of protected areas that this area badly needs.

In total, this map shows 175 acres of land in conservation, with the vast majority of that (about 150 acres) covering existing forest.

Next on the agenda will be to map the remaining Credit Reserves, Reforestation Plantings, and Rising Forests Coffee groves. We will also be adding pictures to each dot so you will be able to see the owner, so you can put a face to the name, and get a sense of the structure of the forest. We also hope to add polygon data so you can see the physical boundaries of the Tree Bank Reserve.

We have also been busy making similar maps for our seed collection activities in Northern Virginia, and will also be sharing data about our restoration plantings beginning this season. As we add more data, we’ll upload to this our website and also post an explanatory blog post similar to this.

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Banner: Late October in a mixed stand of hickories, oaks, and American beech at Fountainhead Regional Park, on the northern shore of the Occoquan River, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Photo by Chris Bright. 

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