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Lesson Navigation IconSuitability analyis

Unit Navigation IconDecision support with GIS

Unit Navigation IconBoolean Overlay

Unit Navigation IconWeighted overlay

Unit Navigation IconDetermining weights

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Suitability analyis

"The wolf has struck again, this time in Ticino. On January 10, he mangled three goats at a pasture above Bellinzona. Thus, the predator was modest: the infamous wolf of Hérens valley in the Valais allegedly had 300 sheep to answer for and was therefore shot last summer. [...]
Any further incident fires up the debate about the wolf anew: Is there room for the voracious predator in densely populated Switzerland? While polls show that about half of the Swiss welcome the return of the wolf, shepherds want none of it. For them, the predators are pests, which descend on their sheep grazing unattended on the alps. [...]" (Kittl 2001)

The upcoming return of the wolf in the Alps is an excellent case study for introducing the topic "Decision support with GIS. The native inhabitants of the Alps, the people, need to decide how to deal with the newcomer. Policy makers need to consider various questions:

  • Where are possible habitats for the wolf?
  • Which areas are particularly well suited?
  • In which areas might conflicts occur between the wolf and shepherds, or mountain railway operators?

To answer these and similar other questions, the combination of decision support techniques with GIS offers a wide range of interesting approaches. To sum up, it is the following question that needs to be answered: how can the suitability of areas for a particular use be determined with GIS? The technical term for this field is called termsuitability analysis. This lesson illustrates its methods using a vivid case study: the hypothetical mountain community of St. Gittal wants to clarify where the wolf could find a suitable habitat. Further, it should be clarified whether and where there are conflicts between different interest groups such as environmentalists, shepherds, and mountain railway operators. This example will be considered throughout the lesson using various perspectives.

Background information about the recapture of the Alps by the wolf can be found at the following Internet addresses:

  • KORA: coordinated research projects for the conservation and management of carnivores in Switzerland
  • BAFU: The Federal Office for the Environment is responsible for many issues concerning the handling of large wild animals

Learning Objectives

  • You recognize that GIS can play an important role in spatial decision making (suitability maps, hazard maps, location search)
  • You can apply boolean and weighted intersection approaches to the problem of spatial decision making and discuss the pros and cons of both approaches
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