Protected Planet, UN Online Mapping Application, Built with Open Source Geospatial Technologies

OpenGeo technologies used by UNEP-WCMC and Vizzuality to create interactive map that allows users to discover the wonders of protected areas.

New York, February 11, 2011 - Protected Planet, an interactive mapping website launched in October, provides information and media on protected areas across the world. Developers from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre(UNEP-WCMC) built the server-side components of the application, while front-end development and visual design was handled by Vizzuality, a Madrid-based company that specializes in biodiversity informatics. As both organizations are committed to open source solutions, UNEP-WCMC used PostGIS for the Protected Planet spatial database, while Vizzuality relied upon GeoServer to serve Protected Planet's geospatial data. PostGIS and GeoServer are both supported by OpenGeo, a global leader in open source geospatial solutions.

Protected Planet is a joint initiative between UNEP and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The application serves data from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), the only global, spatially-referenced information source on parks and protected areas. Navigating the map, visitors can also access user-generated content from other Internet resources, including Wikipedia text and photos from Panoramio and Flickr. In turn, information from Protected Planet can be shared through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Craig Mills, Project Manager of Protected Planet from UNEP-WCMC, explains, " is about harnessing technology for biodiversity conservation. It showcases the beauty of protected areas and motivates anyone who discovers it to help, from a tourist to a government official."

While a wide range of open source components are utilized by Protected Planet, GeoServer and PostGIS provide the geospatial functionality that drive the map-based interface. Javier de la Torre , Founder and Lead Developer at Vizzuality, said, "The OpenGeo technologies GeoServer and PostGIS are fundamental to the Protected Planet application. The project is a great example of important things that can be done with the software."

"It is hugely motivating to see applications like Protected Planet," says OpenGeo President Chris Holmes, "We work every day to make open source geospatial technologies robust and accessible so that organizations worldwide can make geospatial information available in compelling ways. With Protected Planet, UNEP-WCMC and Vizzuality present a fantastic combination of rich data resources, thoughtful interface design, and open source technologies."

About OpenGeo

OpenGeo is a social enterprise working to build the best web-based geospatial technology. The company brings the best practices of open source software to geospatial organizations around the world by providing enterprises with supported, tested, and integrated open source solutions to build the Geospatial Web. OpenGeo also supports open source communities by employing key developers of PostGISGeoServer, and  OpenLayers. Since 2002, the company has provided successful consulting services and products to clients like the World Bank, Google, the UK Ordnance Survey, Portland TriMet, MassGIS, Landgate, and the Federal Communications Commission. OpenGeo is the geospatial division of OpenPlans, a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that informs and engages communities through journalism and open source software. All of OpenGeo's revenue has been and will continue to be re-invested into innovative and useful software in support of the OpenPlans mission.


UNEP-WCMC is the specialist biodiversity information and assessment centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), run collaboratively with WCMC, a UK charity, based in Cambridge, U.K. UNEP-WCMC's mission is to evaluate and highlight the many values of biodiversity and put authoritative biodiversity knowledge at the centre of decision-making.

About Vizzuality

Vizzuality is a Spanish company with offices in both Madrid and New York. Their work uses data analysis and visualization to tell stories that matter. Since 2007, the company has been working with some of the world’s top research and conservation organizations dedicated to biodiversity, climate change, conservation, humanitarian response, and other global causes. Since 2010, Vizzuality has worked to improve the world through research projects involving geospatial analysis, cartographic visualization, and applied citizen science.


Eddie Pickle
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