Lifting the information barriers to address sustainability challenges with data from physical geography and Earth observation

Anthony Lehmann, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Martin Lacayo, Grégory Giuliani, David Thau, Kevin Koy, Grace Goldberg, Richard Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Sustainability challenges demand solutions, and the pace of technological and scientific advances in physical geography and Earth observation have great potential to provide the information needed to address these challenges. This paper highlights five online tools and initiatives that are lifting barriers to address these challenges. The enviroGRIDS project in the Black Sea catchment demonstrates how the use of spatial data infrastructures can facilitate data sharing. Google Earth Engine is providing solutions to challenges of processing big data into usable information. Additionally, application programming interfaces allow outsiders to elaborate and iterate on programs to explore novel uses of data and models, as seen in the Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine. Finally, collaborative mapping tools, such as Seasketch/MarineMap and the InVEST software suite, allow engagement within and between groups of experts and stakeholders for the development, deployment, and long-term impact of a project. Merging these different experiences can set a new standard for online information tools supporting sustainable development from evidence brought by physical geography combined with socioeconomic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number858
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 19 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the authors.


  • Application programming interface
  • Collaborative user interface
  • Ecosystem services
  • High performance computing
  • Spatial data infrastructure
  • Sustainable development goals


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