Arid Lands Newsletter (link)No. 53, May/June 2003
Using geospatial technologies to develop
participatory tools for natural resources management

Selected resources briefly noted


GIS for beginners: Introductory GIS concepts and hands-on exercises. By Basanta Shrestha, Birendra Bajracharya, and Sushil Pradhan. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), 2001. 100 pp. + CD-ROM. ISBN: 92-9115-3931. US$ 20.00 (Developed Countries); US$ 15.00 (Developing Countries); US$ 10.00 (ICIMOD Member Countries). Available from:
P.O. Box 3226

This two-part publication is intended to serve as introductory reading material on GIS for a wide-ranging audience. Part 1 presents a collection of everyday problems from a spatial perspective and explains basic concepts of mapping and GIS, such as Thinking Spatially, Maps, GIS, Data Capture, Remote Sensing, Global Positioning System, Spatial Analysis, and Presenting Results. Part 2 offers an interactive introduction to GIS by means of hands-on exercises with step-by-step instructions for Understanding Digital Maps, Finding Answers with Digital Maps, Telling Stories with Digital Maps, and Building a Digital Map. All the exercises are based on ESRI-Arc Explorer freeware software using local databases. The book is profusely illustrated and contains a bibliography/resource list and a glossary.

The book and CD-ROM together can be used as the basis for a short training course or as supplementary material in schools and colleges as an extension of geography and related courses.

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Alternative futures for changing landscapes: The Upper San Pedro River Basin in Arizona and Sonora. By Carl Steinitz, Hector Manual Arias Rojo, Scott Bassett, Michael Flaxman, Tomas Goode, Thomas Maddock III, David Mouat, Richard Peiser, and Allan Shearer. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2003. ISBN: 1-55963-222-4 9 (paper). 202 pp. US$ 30.00. Available from:
Island Press
1718 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009

The "Alternative futures" approach uses GIS-based simulation modeling to incorporate and consider the demographic, economic, physical, and environmental processes of an area and then project the consequences to that area of various land-use planning and management decisions. This book presents a detailed case study of one alternative futures project — an analysis of development and conservation options for the Upper San Pedro River Basin in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. This Sonoran Desert river basin is internationally recognized for its high levels of biodiversity, and, like many regions, it is facing increased pressures from nearby human activities and population centers.

Working with local stakeholders, the project research team developed a set of scenarios which encompassed public opinion on the major issues facing the area. They then simulated an array of possible patterns of land uses and assessed the resultant impacts on biodiversity and related environmental factors including vegetation, hydrology, and visual preference. Aided by more than 30 charts and graphs and more than 150 color images, the book gives a comprehensive overview of how these activities were carried out, along with descriptions and analysis of the alternative futures that resulted. A detailed look at a new approach for planning, this book is aimed at planners, landscape architects, local officials, and anyone involved with making land use decisions on local and regional scales.

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The following two books are available from:

The University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Ave., Suite 103
Tucson, AZ 85719

Changing precipitation regimes and terrestrial ecosystems: A North American perspective. Edited by Jake F. Weltzin and Guy R. McPherson. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 2003. ISBN: 0-8165-2246-2 (cloth). 237 pp. US$ 50.00.

Climate change research to date has focused primarily on increasing temperatures and other changes in the atmosphere and ocean. Weltzin and McPherson make the case for the urgent need to focus on developing reliable models of potential changes in precipitation regimes and how these will affect terrestrial ecosystems. Their book provides an important source of information about this new area of research, focusing particularly in the western and central US, where rainfall is already scarce and/or highly variable. Its eleven contributed chapters present ongoing investigations into the responses of plant communities and ecosystems to experimental manipulation of precipitation in various field settings. The central question is to develop an understanding of how ecosystem responses depend on plant performance and how water relations vary across space and time among plants of the same and different species. By exploring methods that can be used to predict such responses, this volume demonstrates new approaches to global change research and highlights the importance of precipitation regimes in structuring ecosystems.

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The changing mile revisited. By Raymond M. Turner, Robert H. Webb, Janice E. Bowers and James Rodney Hastings. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8165-2306-1 (cloth). 334 pp. US$ 75.00.

The original version of this book, published in 1965, was a benchmark in ecological studies, juxtaposing photographs made throughout the Sonoran Desert region in the late 1800s and early 1900s with photographs of the same locations taken many decades later. This new book updates the classic by adding recent photographs to the original pairs, providing another three decades of data and showing even more clearly the extent of change across the landscape. The photographs were selected from almost three hundred stations located in southern Arizona, in the Pinacate region of Mexico, and along the coast of the Gulf of California. The images show vegetation across the entire region at sites ranging in elevation from sea level to a mile above sea level.

During these same three decades, abundant information about climatic variability, land use, and plant ecology has accumulated, making it possible to determine causes of change with more confidence. Thus, the book accompanies its visual data with readable analysis by expert botanists and ecologists. The project is introduced with essays on the desert habitat and the influence of various human populations on the land. Three chapters, on oak woodland, grassland, and desert, describe changes at the photo stations featured in the book, with analysis based on the vegetation visible in the photographs. Each chapter includes an introduction to the habitat types, sets of triplicate photographs with detailed explanations, and a summary of changes. Throughout, common names are used for most plants and animals (with Latin equivalents in endnotes) to make the book more accessible to non-technical readers. As well as being an important ecological reference, this volume also offers a fascinating portrait of the region and its history.

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