Highlighting the career of Prof Willem van Riet, directing innovative conservation initiatives in Africa, illustrating his experiences and approach through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

An all-inclusive approach to conservation was instigated by numerous adventures on wild rivers in the 60’s and developed through academic research at Universities in Philadelphia (USA) and Pretoria (South Africa). GIS software, data and processes were harnessed throughout his career in support of planning, scientific analyses and fundraising.  Projects and programmes will be illustrated through a number themes. This approach was implemented during his years on the SANParks Board and on transboundary initiatives in Southern Africa during his 10 years as the CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation. Recently he has functioned as a consulted through the Swedish entity (Transboundary Conservation Foundation).

"I hope that the review of these conservation projects, as a journey of discovery through the use of GIS and maps, will be of assistance to conservation development in many parts of the world. I would like to iterate that the content of this site reflects my own personal point of view and is based on my personal experiences."

This site gives a good overview of NASA and the use of satellites to detect environmental changes and impact on a continental scale. The use of EVI sensitive sensors gives the opportunity to scope the effects of land use types and gives a good overview of the technology used.

Click here for the full article: California Landscape is Mix of Green and Brown

The recognition of mid ocean ridges and the geologic forces behind ocean floor expansion and continental drift was one of the last behind the acceptance of the continental drift. This article discusses the idea that there is even a link between the volcanic activities under the sea and ice ages:

Seafloor Eruptions Triggered by Tides, Ice Ages

Scientists may have found the smoking gun that ties massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia to the huge Permian extinction, known as the Great Dying. Researchers have discovered that chemicals pumped out of the volcanoes created acid rain that led to the death of some 70 percent of life on land and 90 percent of sea life, according to the study published in Geology. This study also mentions the link between volcanic activity and other great extinction events.

Earth's Biggest Extinction Due to Climate, Volcanoes: Researchers

NASA is one of the most influential organizations in the global environmental sphere. The fact that they make information available to the public domain is even more important as there is no government interference and the scientific impact of their research is far reaching. This news release, one of the most important global sites, illustrates the size and impact of the most important non-biological ecosystems service that for many countries will soon become the most limiting of all services. This site and the visible effects of processes that drive our rainfall and hydrological capital will be important for years to come. It is truly fabulous to see functional nature on a global scale.

Click Here: NASA Releases First Global Rainfall and Snowfall Map from New Mission

This was the most important event that changed the earth forever and introduced life on Earth as we know it. The first approximation of life on Earth was thought to be about 3.5 billion year ago and even in South Africa there is evidence of that in the rocks of the Mpumalanga escarpment. According to this research the oxygen appearance was a billion years earlier. During this period of climate change it is important to understand the previous history of the development of climate and life.

BBC: The Event That Transformed The Earth

A very interesting article on the improved measurement techniques from satellites and NASA, indicating that the volumes of sea ice in the Artic actually increased. It supports the idea, that climate change has become so politicised that it is difficult to determine fact from fiction.

Click Here for full article: Arctic sea ice volume showed strong recovery in 2013


This article gives some real information on the value that hunting delivers to conservation in general and rural regions specifically. The financial value of this kind of activity is very clearly explained and supports the overall benefit of conservation as a land use protecting ecosystem services. In Africa today the loss of habitat, loss of wildlife due to poaching is of immediate threat. Once it is gone it will never come back.

The emotional outburst to the Cecil incident is astonishing considering the dramatic increase in the threat to wild life in rural areas of Africa. The use of satellite imaging gives real indications of change through activities such as agriculture and deforestation through logging as well as the uncontrolled growth in destructive land use activities that arrives with presence of roads and access such as bush meat poaching.

Hunting by giving value can counter these forces and allow rural communities some benefit.

Full Article: 10 consequences of banning trophy hunting in SA

I find this map perspective and accompanying article simply amazing. The three dimensional ability as well as the time component in the presentation is mind-boggling. The overall spacing of time in geologic terms is fascinating and shows the changing events influencing our environments through the ages. Where we are going with our environmental impact of the current civilization is difficult to imagine today, especially when viewing our time on earth as rather short when measured in geologic time span.

Click Here for the full article

It is sometimes difficult to think globally, but the availability of information and data on a global scale gives us the ability to do so today. The concept of the carrying capacity for humans and its resource utilization impact on the planet is reviewed with this interesting review. It is clear that in a very short space in time we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth for mankind. What we are going to do about this is difficult to imagine. Bamboo, as a highly renewable resource, could potentially reverse the devastating effect of deforestation around the world and help to limit man's impact on the globe. One such company trying to promote bamboo flooring as an alternative to hardwoods is Eco Bamboo Africa.

Click here for the full article: We’ve Consumed More Than the Earth Can Produce This Year

It is with great pride and pleasure that I announce that the ESRI Conservation Grant was awarded to myself and the TRANSBOUNDARY CONSERVATION FOUNDATION.

This is indeed a great honour and would allow the Foundation access to all the new software linked to the enormous ESRI GIS platform and will also allow access the vast amount of new environmental data that is being made available by ESRI to all Conservation projects. The world is changing around us and so is the use of GIS software and information through use of Apps instead of complex programs.

I hope to be making use of this in the near future to provide our many conservation projects with new skills.

Thank you all at ESRI South Africa and ESRI USA!






NASA has reviewed many of the vast number of Landsat images to illustrate the many changes to the earth's landscapes. This atlas uses technology to illustrate many of these changes. Select the global view to observe the position of all these changes and click on a point to select a view.




The well-known GIS company ESRI has made available the Landsat 8 images from NASA. This amazing way of viewing the world of satellite images allowing one a view the earth in 30m resolution images.



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This atlas on forest change from the Modis satellite from the University of Maryland, an institute of importance due to their association with NASA.



Another fabulous atlas from the World Resources Institute on forest landscape restoration. It is often forgotten that after deforestation within the current climatic regime these areas have a potential to be restored ecologically through a path of rehabilitation.



This atlas from Global Forest Watch illustrates the impact of man on the forests of the globe. When reviewing the ecosystems services derived from these forests, one can only be depressed about where we are going. It is once again a question of supply and demand to understand the reasons for the destruction. There are many data sets that can be studied as well as zooming into various countries. 



National Geographic has developed this atlas of our next real live ecosystem service crisis, that of Water. The way we use water depends on rain falling on the various catchment basins of the continents. These boundaries do nor often coincide with country boundaries and therefore transboundary management is essential. Have a look at what should have been international boundaries of the nations of world.


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