Human Footprint

The human modification of the planet is precipitating a new epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene, and concurrently a global mass extinction crisis. These issues are especially acute in Canada, where large-scale infrastructural expansion is underway for a burgeoning oil and gas industry, and much of the North becomes increasingly accessible to forestry, mining and trade. The CS lab is undertaking a range of research to improve our understanding of how cumulative environmental pressures are distributed and changing across broad spatial scales in Canada, South America and globally. A major output from this work as been the release in the first temporally inter-comparable global human footprint maps and maps of the extent of intact wilderness areas


Life on Land

The NASA Life on Land Project provides forecasting models to evaluate scenarios for Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to meet their commitments to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under alternative climate and policy scenarios. With key ties to the commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this project works to enable countries to conserve, restore, and sustainably use their forests to support nature-based solutions for climate change and sustainable development. The project focuses on: (1) projecting change to future scenarios in ecosystem structure and composition, vertebrate habitats, and water risk under scenarios of climate and land use change; (2) analyzing trends to inform reporting and policymaking for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15; and (3) developing an SDG decision support system for sustained use by in-country collaborators, building on the work already completed through UN Biodiversity Lab.

The project focuses on three countries: Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Collaborating research and capacity building institutions include: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), NASA, Montana State University, University of Northern Arizona, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Queensland, and Wildlife Conservation Society. (From NBSAP forums,

The Conservation Solutions Lab is exploring the generation of indicators based on the Human Footprint for other countries to undertake their SDG reporting.  This aims at understanding the spatial and temporal patterns of human influence in highly biodiverse countries, to assist the making of conservation policies.

Canadian Footprint

In Canada there is a need to better understand the patterns of pressures across our intact and modified ecosystems to inform future conservation efforts.  Incorporating 12 interacting anthropogenic pressures, we produced the first Canadian terrestrial human footprint. The product provides a more complete understanding of the different pressures facing ecosystems in Canada. It provides a higher spatial resolution than global human footprints at 300 meters which can easily be applied at different scales. The Canadian human footprint is already being used in different conservation science projects for regional and national analyses in connectivity and key biodiversity areas.

Human footprint and wilderness mapping in British Columbia

The CSL is developing the first maps of Human Footprint and Wilderness for British Columbia. The Human Footprint is a spatial index that represents the intensity and extent of human pressures on the environment. This Methodology is based on the cumulative pressures mapping in which, through several maps, is possible to quantify the aggregate effects on those places where there are co-occurrences.

This method uses several assumptions such as all human pressures have equal importance, or the intensity scores are accurate. We aim to explore these assumptions, depicting cumulative environmental pressures in BC. Using a full spectrum of maps (e.g population density, land cover, and infrastructure, among others) and a detailed validation process, we will assess what are the key layers to provide a correct and effective state of human pressures. Furthermore, we will evaluate the synergies among pressures, with multiple combinations of layers and intensity scores.

Additionally, the CSL is working on the definition of Wilderness areas in the province. The Wilderness perspective is the result of personal experiences and socio-cultural context. However, there is consensus that Wilderness is an area free of high levels of human pressures, with an important role on earth systems and cultural heritage. Although it is difficult to separate Wilderness from Non-Wilderness, we aim to explore multiple definitions and their representations.