- Restoration Map:A Web-based Tool for Spatial and Participatory Adaptive Management of Ecological Restoration Projects
Restoration Notes have been a distinguishing feature of Ecological Restoration for more than 25 years. This section is geared toward introducing innovative research, tools, technologies, programs, and ideas, as well as providing short-term research results and updates on ongoing efforts. Please direct submissions and inquiries to the editorial staff (ERjournal@aesop.rutgers.edu).
Managing ecological restoration projects often requires coordination and communication among diverse stakeholders such as landowner agencies, restoration contractors, volunteer groups, and partner conservation organizations (Leach et al. 2002). Web-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are increasingly being used for collaborative decision-making among stakeholder partnerships (Dragićević and Balram 2004). However, these systems often require licensing fees and technical expertise that are prohibitively expensive, especially to some restoration contractors, nonprofit, and volunteer organizations. To encourage collaborative management of restoration projects, there is a need to develop accessible and open GIS-based decision support tools that integrate the spatially explicit management history of ecological restoration projects with multiple sources of species monitoring data. To address these challenges in the context of ecological restoration in the Chicago, IL, USA area, we used open-source and freely available software to develop a web-based decision support tool called Restoration Map.
Restoration Map (restorationmap.org) is a web-based geospatial application to help plan, implement, and assess ecological restoration projects within Chicago Wilderness natural areas. Use of the map is completely free to any user, and the source code is freely available under the GNU General Public License (Free Software Foundation 2007). By integrating long term monitoring data to provide feedback on the effects of restoration work, the map is designed to enable the adaptive management of restoration projects. Adaptive management is an iterative, cyclical approach to management that incorporates experimental results into an evolving management plan (Walters and Green 1997, Morghan et al. 2006, Williams 2011). By overlaying monitoring data with management data, Restoration Map encourages users to follow the adaptive management cycle: the user visually explores existing management trends while planning future work, then documents the work on the map as it is implemented, and finally assesses the outcome and adapts future plans. Data from the Bird Conservation Network eBird (BCN 2012; Sullivan et al. 2009), the Calling Frog Survey (CFS 2013), region-wide vegetation surveys, site-specific vegetation monitoring, and various bird and weed inventories (Habitat Project 2013) are available as map layers that can be overlaid with spatial management history data such as prescribed burns, seed applications, or weed control. The visualization of these datasets together enables the user to explore trends previously difficult to detect, such as correlations between the frequency of prescribed burns and changes in the number of birds of conservation concern (Figure 1). Restoration Map also includes map layers representing soil data (Soil Survey Staff, NRCS, USDA 2013) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland data (USFWS 2013). Google Earth (Google Inc. 2013) historical imagery visualizes the impact of management history through changes in the satellite imagery.
Use of Restoration Map is designed to be straightforward for non-technical users; any authorized person (staff, partner agency, contractor or volunteer steward) can simply draw new management history map layers or import GPX or KML data. These map layers are public by default, but can be set private to protect untested options or locations of rare species. Data openness and sharing are encouraged by making all data available for export in KML or shape-file formats. Reports can be generated and downloaded as spreadsheets. Furthermore, the monitoring datasets are integrated using a modular plug-in design to enable the map’s administrators to easily add or remove monitoring components. This allows Restoration Map to potentially be set up for other regions that, like the Chicago area, have multiple, region-specific monitoring datasets.
Restoration Map was implemented using all open-source or free software. On the map’s webserver is a standard [End Page 3] LAMP software stack (Ware 2002); data is kept in a MySQL database accessed using server-side PHP code. The application uses Ajax (Garrett 2005) to...