Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Atlas of the Biosphere
Jamais Cascio, 30 Oct 04

This is a beautiful site.

The Atlas of the Biosphere, a service of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a wonderful resource for global and regional maps of environmental data. The maps cover four broad categories: human impacts, land use, ecosystems, and water resources. Global and continental maps are available for each subject, all approximately 1600x1200 in size (making them perfect for desktop backgrounds). The map description pages include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data for ESRI ArcView, the widely-used GIS software, allowing the creation of new mapsets.

The maps give country-based information for most human activity subjects (such as infant mortality, proportion of population under the age of 15, and per capita oil use) and more precise gridcell-based information for most environmental subjects (such as net primary productivity, built-up land, and lakes and wetlands).

Beyond the maps, the Atlas of the Biosphere also has a set of system schematics, in Flash format, showing processes such as the carbon cycle and the Earth's "radiation budget." The SAGE group takes advantage of the SWF format for animation, which is nice, but not for interactivity. Perhaps in the next iteration.

SAGE describes the Atlas as an "ongoing project," and they encourage suggestions for additions.

Bookmark and Share


What a nice surprise to see our web atlas featured on World Changing!

I would like to stress that we would *love* some feedback on this effort, since we hope to launch a much more ambitious follow-on activity in the next year or two (provided we can secure some funding for it).

Any ideas, suggestions, or criticisms would be most welcome. Please send them to

Thanks! Jon Foley

Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE)
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Posted by: Jon Foley on 30 Oct 04

There is a powerful movie, created by Navin Ramankutty from SAGE, of cropland expansion over the past 300 years. It clearly shows the expansion and intensification of humanity's transformation of the biosphere.


Posted by: Garry Peterson on 30 Oct 04

Great resource! Combining Garry and John's comments: where historical data sets are available, how about an option for automatically creating time-lapse movies?

A complementary resource is Visible Earth, part of NASA's Earth Observatory.

Posted by: Hassan on 30 Oct 04



MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg