Mapping wilderness

Maps are among the most powerful data-visualisation tools. Yet, global charts sometimes risk spurring the wrong public debate.

In an article published on The Conversation, Steve Carver and Lex Comber highlight the state of “wilderness” in the world by means of some heatmaps. The article draws on a study conducted back in 2013 and commissioned by the EU. The original research was aimed at collecting data from across Europe on the matter.

In the article, one of the maps that showcase the state of wilderness is dedicated to Europe. According to the authors, it is more common “to find wilderness areas at more northern latitudes that are too cold and dry for agriculture or forestry and at high altitudes where the land is too rugged to work.”

Why we like it

Besides the infographic content itself, which provides a nice overview of Europe’s wilderness, more generally, the article is a very good read because of its focus on the process of data collection and the possible drawbacks linked to map-visualisation.

As Carver and Comber put it, “while global maps are useful for drawing attention to the attrition of wilderness areas, only the greater detail of national and local maps can really help us understand and respond to the threats that face our remaining wild areas [...]. While global maps grab the headlines, they also risk masking the detail in the underlying causes and so have limited use. They may be great for highlighting the problem, but should only be a starting point to encourage us to look deeper and help us appreciate the underlying drivers of these lost wilds.”

Available translations
Wednesday 13 February 2019


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