5 Ways 3-D Mapping is Helping to Save the Planet

For many of us, mapping is a simple, daily thing that makes it much easier for us to get from point A to point B in a cost-effective and timely manner. But, convenience aside, the common concept of a map is not something that really has the power to dramatically change or alter our daily lives. However, while mapping may seem like a pretty standard thing for many, the technology known as 3-D mapping is actually having a much more marked impact on the day to day. Given its ability to create three-dimensional views of objects and provide a very real-to-life view of a place and its geography, 3-D mapping is currently enabling us to broach many of the problems facing the world in a way that can go beyond the functionality of the typical, everyday map.

Providing Relief Access in a Crisis

From the danger of the hurricane season to the unparalleled destruction experienced in countries like Haiti and Nepal following earthquakes, one of the most important things after the occurrence of a natural disaster is the ability for the right people to access the right locations to help those who are most in need. Fortunately, the use of 3-D mapping has actually enabled relief workers to reach those requiring help in areas like Nepal, where a combination of satellite imagery and open source maps were used to determine what route volunteers should take in order to provide food and services. With this beneficial utilization of knowledge from a number of different sources, the information that can be collected on a 3-D map can mean more relief more quickly, saving lives, money and valuable time. 

Protecting Vulnerable Eco-Systems

Nowadays, with environmental issues more abundant and the negative impact of climate change on our ecosystems, it’s becoming more important than ever to ensure that we are doing our best to conserve vulnerable geographical areas and species. Fortunately, the digital mapping organization SkyTruth, based in West Virginia, has teamed up with Google and the conservation non-profit Oceana to tackle these very issues. Utilizing the Automatic Identification systems (AIS) that sends out signals to satellites in order to determine the location of a fishing vessel, SkyTruth is mapping these areas to determine if the boundaries of protected areas are being illegally permeated. While this data does not have the ability to protect the seas on its own, this gives conservation organizations like Oceana a sense of which areas are being commonly trespassed so that the appropriate parties can be sent out to enforce these hard-to-identify boundaries.

Maintaining Satisfactory Food Supply

There are many places in the world where food deserts cause problems for local populations, and 3-D mapping has been effectively utilized in these situations. A few years ago, the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas was released, a staggering mapped portrait of what the local food supply looks like in areas all over the United States. By determining the places where fresh fruit markets and grocery stores exist, and adding in data that determines low-income areas or those with limited transportation options, a map like this can easily determine where there is a greater need for food and what areas, in particular, are struggling with limited access. While this has been proven to be beneficial in the United States, this type of 3-D mapping can be utilized anywhere to determine issues that are faced by local citizens in regards to proximity to and ability to access a reliable food supply.

Capturing The Damage to Coral Reefs

Coral reefs like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef may be very small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean, but they support approximately 25% of the diverse species that inhabit it. As a result, the coral reefs are very important for sustaining life on earth, and now there are much more viable means of studying their decline so that necessary changes can be effected. While there was a time when divers had to manually measure a reef to get data on how issues like coral bleaching were affecting plant and animal life, 3-D mapping has enabled marine scientists to determine more precisely how reefs are changing over time so they can be aware of the urgency required to tackle these issues. With the data to back it up, policies can then be put into place that can make a difference for the future of the reefs and their marine life.

Vaccinating Dangerous Diseases

When it comes to combating contagious diseases around the world, it may seem like something as far afield as mapping technology offers no solutions, but it is actually extremely adept when it comes to knocking out dangerous disease and can be a literal lifesaver in effectively managing these situations. For example, when vaccinations are required to control disease in certain areas, 3-D mapping enables doctors and any involved parties to determine exactly where the impacted areas are, and how much is left to be done in order to completely vaccinate a population. With the contagiousness of many viruses, this is paramount in controlling the disease so that its spread can be mitigated and it can eventually be wiped out entirely. With technology like GPS trackers, this type of mapping has the ability to clearly identify what areas have been covered off and what still needs to be done so no one is left out or left behind.

For many of us, mapping is something we do to get from our home to a new restaurant in a different neighborhood, but the flexibility and capacity of 3-D mapping can actually improve the lives of many in ways that are hard to believe. Given the ability of this type of mapping to connect with the knowledge we have, it has easily enhanced the conservation efforts of non-profits and organizations that provide disaster relief all over the world. With the ease of this type of mapping and the necessity for dealing with important issues all over the world, 3-D mapping will likely be a boon for many to determine how problematic situations can be improved with greater knowledge.


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