Map of the Human Footprint

R. A. Hettinga
Wed, 5 Mar 2003 11:30:20 -0500

Of course, I think this map is cool not because of some mystification of the places where humans *aren't*, but because of the grand ubiquity of where humanity *is*.


EO Newsroom: New Images - 

Map of the Human Footprint 

Click here to view full image (101 kb) 

The Human Footprint is a quantitative analysis of human influence across the globe. In this map, human impact is rated on a scale of 0 (minimum) to 100 (maximum) for each terrestrial biome. A score of 1 indicates the least human influence in the given biome. However, because each biome has its own independent scale, a score of 1 in a tropical rainforest might reflect a different level of human activity than in a broadleaf forest. 

A collaboration of NASA scientists, university researchers, and conservationists created the map, using geographic information systems to combine global land use and land cover maps with population data. Using these technologies, the collaborators chose four types of data to measure human influence: population density, land transformation, human access, and power infrastructure. 

Increased human population often leads to greater influence on the environment and sharper declines in species and ecosystems. According to the authors of the human footprint study, however, land transformation probably poses the single greatest threat to biodiversity, resulting in habitat loss and/or fragmentation for wild species. Beyond its effects on the nearby area, it can have global consequences, such as worldwide changes in soils and increased demand for fresh water for irrigation. 

Completion of the human footprint map marks major progress in conservation efforts. Ruth DeFries, associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, said, "Each of the supporting data sets used to map the human footprint represents an enormous investment by scientists in that discipline. By bringing those data sets together, the human footprint gives an interesting overview of the regions on Earth where humans have the greatest and the least presence." 

For more information and additional maps, read The Human Footprint .

Image courtesy Center for International Earth Science Information Network Last of the Wild Project 

R. A. Hettinga <mailto:>
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"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'