May 7, 2014, WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released EnviroAtlas, a web-based interactive tool that integrates over 300 separate data layers, helps decision makers understand the implications of planning and policy decisions on our fragile ecosystems and the communities who depend on goods and services from these ecosystems. EnviroAtlas is designed for people from all levels of government, professionals, researchers, educators, non-governmental organizations, and anyone interested in considering the benefits or impacts of a decision, such as siting a new road or city park.
“Our health and well-being, our economy and our security depend upon healthy ecosystems,” says Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator of EPA, “By providing EnviroAtlas, which contains a wealth of information for the United States, EPA is helping to ensure that anyone making decisions that may impact ecosystems will have the best available knowledge to build prosperous communities while conserving our natural resources.”
EnviroAtlas can help people learn about ecosystems, and how they provide us with benefits such as clean air and water; opportunities for recreation; and protection from severe weather, such as hurricanes and floods. EnviroAtlas also highlights how ecosystems provide habitats for plants, fish, and wildlife as well as the materials people need to produce food, clothing, shelter, and pharmaceuticals, and provides maps on all of these topics.
EnviroAtlas integrates geospatial data from a variety of sources to allow users to visualize and analyze how decisions impact ecosystems and their ability to provide goods and services. Communities are often faced with difficult decisions, such as trade-offs between transportation, residential or commercial development and maintaining local wetlands, urban greenspaces, or urban forests. EnviroAtlas helps communities better understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of their decisions by providing data, maps, information and tools to analyze relationships between nature, health and well-being, and the economy.
EnviroAtlas combines hundreds of data layers developed through collaboration between EPA; US Geological Survey; US Forest Service; other federal, state, and non-profit organizations; and several universities. Using powerful web application tools, it lets users generate customized maps and images that show the condition of their local community’s air, water, and landscape; as well as population density and other demographic data. Users can investigate land cover patterns, see how ecosystem services reduce pollution, and view closer to true scale data to compare them across selected communities.
EnviroAtlas is available to anybody with access to a computer and an internet connection. No special software is needed. It is currently not optimized for smartphone or tablet use, but a mobile-friendly version is planned for the future.
Using tools like EnviroAtlas to make informed decisions will help ensure that people can continue to enjoy economic, social, and environmental benefits of ecosystems now and in the future.