The coolest map ever, showing Earth’s ecological make-up, has just been created

17 Feb 2015

Ecologocal map, via ESRI

US researchers have developed an intricate map of Earth portraying the ecological make-up of every corner of the globe.

The ESRI, in partnership with the US geological survey (USGS), have created a global Ecological Land Unit map (ELU), showcasing and classifying all known ecological and physiographic information about land surface features.

Harder to pin down than say chemical ingredients in liquids or the physics behind structures, ecological research is a softer, broader discipline of science, relying on personal information logged by on-the-ground researchers all over the world.

This map, however, may change that as it partitions the planet into 50m sq divides, listing the bioclimate, landforms, rock types and land cover of every spot on the map. Presumably a tool like this will significantly aid research into global warming.

Detailed info suggested

The main webpage brings you to a large, world map with two ways of investigating the planet. There’s the simple, point and click, which brings up information on geographical points, or a rather brilliant storyboard tour, bringing you to some of the more interesting places in the world with additional information.

For example, Barbrek river in Scotland is described as a place with a cool to cold, very wet, marine west coast climate. A mosaic of mainly grassland and forest, “but with some areas of cropland.”

Barbrek River

Suggested sites aorund the world, such as Barbrek River or Chaozhou (below) offer fantastic information. Via ESRI


“This map provides, for the first time, a web-based, GIS-ready, global ecophysiographic data product for land managers, scientists, conservationists, planners, and the public to use for global and regional scale landscape analysis and accounting,” says Roger Sayre from the USGS.

“The global ELU map advances an objective, repeatable, ‘big data’ approach to the synthesis and classification of important earth surface data layers into distinct and ecologically meaningful land units.”

Where in the world

There’s also, however, a cool app here. Offering you four ways to view the map, it again lets you search around the globe for places of interest, giving brief descriptions on the land form and ecological set-up.

So zoom in on, say, Munster on the Alsace Lorraine border and you see it has a cool, wet climate, with foothills, acid plutonic rock make-up and closed, broadleaved deciduous forest.


Munster’s make up can be found on this app, via ESRI

Helsinki, similarly, has an acid plutonic rock type, with artificial and associated areas, flat plains and a cold and wet bioclimate.

Singapore is very hot and wet, with smooth plains and carbonate sedimentary rock. While Cambridge, in Massachusetts, is made from siliciclastic sedimentary rock.

It’s so cool, have a go.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic