This Interactive Map Shows The World's Ecosystems In Freakish Detail

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The U.S. Geological Survey and Esri have created a zoomable map that lets you explore all of the world's ecological land units down to an astounding 820 foot (250 meter) resolution. Check it out and tell us about your "ecological land unit."

The interactive map breaks down the world's surface features into cells, or ecological facets, defined by four layers that drive ecological processes: bioclimate, landform, lithology (rock type), and land cover parameters. Esri's researchers chose the layers in terms of their accuracy, currency, and global coverage. In all, there are 47,650 combinations of the four layers, with each cell aggregated into 3,923 ecological land units (ELU). It's considered the very first (and certainly the most detailed) map showing the world's ELUs.

You can browse through the interactive map here. Are more simplified version can be found here. Clicking on the map will display information about the chosen region's ecological structure. Alternately, you can just use the search feature to pinpoint a particular geographic location.


I used the map to learn that my location, Oakville, Ontario, is Cool Wet/Flat Plains/Mixed Sedimentary Rock/Artificial surfaces and associated areas (Urban ares >50%).


Clicking on the place of my birth, Manitouwadge (which is in northern Ontario) shows a region that's Cold Wet/Flat Plains/Basic Volcanics/Mosaic forest or shrubland (50-70%/grassland (20-50%).


The Sahara is Hot Very Dry/Flat Plains/Unconsolidated Sediment/Bare areas, while the Siberian tundra is Very Cold Wet/Low Hills/Siliciclastic Sedimentary Rock/Sparse (>15% vegetation).

Esri says the purpose of the map is to provide web-based data for land managers, scientists, conservationists, developers, and the public to "to use for global, regional, and landscape analysis and accounting."


[ Esri ]