GIS Methodologies for Developing Conservation Strategies: Tropical Forest Recovery and Wildlife Management in Costa Rica

By Basil G. Savitsky; Thomas E. Lacher Jr. | Go to book overview

4
GIS
Basil G. Savitsky

THERE are numerous definitions of GIS. Maguire (1991) lists eleven different definitions. Some place emphasis on the computer processing or analytical procedures, such as Burrough (1986:6), who defines GIS as a “set of tools for collecting, storing, retrieving at will, transforming, and displaying spatial data from the real world for a particular set of purposes.” Other definitions emphasize the institutional and project context in which the GIS hardware and software reside (Dickinson and Calkins 1988). The discussion in chapter 3 revolving around the information system triangle (figure 3.1) uses this broader approach to defining GIS.

As sufficient attention has been allocated to the system components of GIS in the previous chapter, this chapter will focus on the extraction of information from geographic data. Emphasis is given to the type of information produced through GIS and to the types of data stuctures which are commonly employed.


Information Extraction and Synthesis

There is a decision-making continuum which ranges from data to information to knowledge (figure 4.1). The policy community is dependent upon the scientific community to provide meaningful information so that those in power can make intelligent decisions. The ability of the decision-maker to link various pieces of information with his or her own personal and political experience regarding an issue defines the level of knowledge achieved about the issue. There is often frustration on the part of scientists who feel that they have successfully provided a governing body with information only to see that information mixed with political pressures, media presentation of anecdotal cases, and the opinions of

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