The Spatial Nature of Conservation
Thomas E. Lacher Jr.
ABOUT 2,200 years ago a scholarly librarian in charge of the prestigious collections of the museum at Alexandria conducted an elegant exercise in logic and experimentation. Using seemingly unrelated bits of information such as the observation of the penetration of sunlight into a well in the city of Syene, the speed of a camel caravan, and the shadow cast by an obelisk in Alexandria, Eratosthenes calculated a remarkably accurate estimate of the circumference of the earth (Wilford 1981). This was a profound observation; the limits of a planet as yet unexplored had been defined. As the human population of Earth continues to grow, these limits become increasingly more constraining. How we use and conserve space becomes more important every day.
The making of maps was one of the earliest of human activities. The Chinese were making accurate maps with legends in the second century B.C., and clay maps with cardinal directions present (that is, east—toward the rising sun— appeared at the top of the maps) have been recovered in Iraq which date to 2300 B.C. These maps might have been used to map and tax real estate. The Egyptians produced maps of gold mines, complete with roads. The spatial representation of development is an ancient craft, and contemporary research on conservation and development is heavily reliant upon spatial analyses.
Virtually all aspects of land use revolve around issues of area and geometry. Agriculture, forestry, urban and regional planning, and the design of parks and protected areas all address the size of the area under consideration as well as its shape and location relative to other elements on the landscape. Agriculturists deal with the area under cultivation, the placement of fields in relation to wind breaks and shelter belts, the location and timing of crop rotations, and the