Census Bureau Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Technology That Propelled GIS, Digital and Online Mapping into the 21st Century

From: sensorsandsystems.com

U.S. Census Bureau  20 Nov 2014

What about DIME?–mjk     click here for the entire article

The convenience of getting directions today on smartphones and tablets can trace its roots to the digital geographic database created 25 years ago by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) database — the first nationwide digital map of roads, boundaries and water — was initially created for the 1990 Census to modernize the once-a-decade head count. However, its impact has extended well beyond its initial purpose by offering common map data in electronic form that powers today’s geographic information system industry.

“TIGER is just one example of how innovation in the government has spurred innovation and positive economic results in the private sector,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said. “TIGER helped grow an entire industry — the GIS industry — and created many good jobs by providing popular mapping products integral to the everyday lives of Americans.”

In addition to celebrating this 25-year milestone, the Census Bureau is also announcing that the U.S. Geological Survey will use TIGER as the primary roads layer on The National Map Viewer and US Topo map product starting in 2015. The TIGER roads layer, which consists of all roads in the U.S., joins the TIGER governmental unit boundaries layer as an authoritative source of current, accurate and high-quality geospatial data for The National Map, which delivers topographic information for the nation. The National Map has many uses, ranging from recreation to scientific analysis to emergency response.

“The Census Bureau’s history is one of innovation,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. “From the Hollerith tabulating machine to the use of UNIVAC I, one of the first computers, and the development of TIGER, these achievements have provided significant technological advancement and improved our ability to deliver timely, reliable statistics. TIGER provides the nation with a valuable set of geographic information for use by all, including businesses and all levels of government.”

As a national digital map database, TIGER contains all geographic features — such as roads, railroads, rivers, and legal and statistical geographic boundaries — needed to support the Census Bureau’s data collection and dissemination programs. The TIGER/Line Shapefiles are updated annually and available for free download via census.gov.

 

TIGER Creation

The development and completion of the first nationwide digital map of the United States and Puerto Rico took nearly 10 years.

Prior to TIGER, geographers created paper maps for enumerators to use in census operations. Census Bureau geographers and cartographers manually added census boundaries to existing maps gathered from a variety of sources. Copies of these maps were then made available to enumerators.

These paper maps varied in quality and scale and were quickly outdated, particularly when boundaries changed. Thus, TIGER was created to provide a single source of geographic data.

“TIGER came into existence with no backup plan or room for failure,” said Tim Trainor, who worked on the project 25 years ago as a cartographer and is now chief of the Census Bureau’s Geography Division. “We knew there was a need to produce high-quality maps from a consistent source, and that drove the development of TIGER.”

To create TIGER, the Census Bureau collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey. USGS created a special topographic map series for roads and rivers using new scanning technology that automatically digitized roads and rivers into separate files. The Census Bureau and USGS geographers manually digitized printed maps by recording individual roads, boundaries, rivers, railroads, etc., onto the computer. Once each road and water file was created for a given area, the files were merged to create one integrated map.

 

TIGER and the Census Bureau Today

Today, every state and local government has the capability to create its own geographic information system with small-area census geographic data using publicly available extracts of the TIGER database.

Over the past 25 years, the Census Bureau has continued to innovate and evolve with changing technology. In addition to creating TIGER, the Census Bureau was one of the first government agencies to create a public website and has since created interactive maps and Web-mapping services available both online and on mobile devices. These innovations make Census Bureau statistics easier to access than ever before.

The new partnership with the USGS and the Census Bureau will return more consistent and high-quality geographic data back to local communities. Using TIGER as the public domain geospatial data source alleviates the data dissemination constraints and costs of using commercial data.

“The USGS is pleased to use the TIGER database as a base layer of The National Map and US Topo quadrangles,” said Julia Fields, deputy director of the USGS National Geospatial Program. “TIGER provides The National Map with an accurate, public domain database that meets the needs of our user community. Our partnership represents good government by coordinating resources, eliminating procurement costs and developing improved data that are freely available to American citizens and businesses.”

The Census Bureau offers several file types and an online mapping application of TIGER. Products include:

 

TIGER Tomorrow

The Census Bureau improves TIGER each year, and planning for the 2020 Census is bringing new enhancements. By engaging with both the private and public sector to enhance geographic programs, supporting research to improve geospatial products and contributing to GIS conferences, the Census Bureau continues to embrace changing technologies and techniques and strives to make greater amounts of its data available to all.

– See more at: https://sensorsandsystems.com/news/top-stories/corporate-news/35261-census-bureau-celebrates-25th-anniversary-of-technology-that-propelled-gis-digital-and-online-mapping-into-the-21st-century.html#sthash.FSYCMDyK.dpuf

NOVA Goes OSM (Open Street Map)

About 40 volunteers gathered Saturday morning at NOVA’s Reston Center to map food resources in their communities.  The Map-a-Thon was hosted by NOVA’s student ASPRS (remote sensing) chapter.  Partners in the effort were Mason’s ASPRS chapter, MappingDC, Open Street Map, and MapGive.  Mappers used Open Street Map to plot and tag farmers markets (and vendors) in their communities.  The event was open to the public and supported the Geography Awareness Week theme of food security.

 

Volunteers mapping Farmers Markets
Volunteers mapping Farmers Markets

Click here to learn more about Open Street Map and Geography Week.

Record Drought Reveals Stunning Changes Along Colorado River

Jonathan Waterman for National Geographic  23 NOv 2014  www.news.nationalgeographic.com

 

A boat wends its way around the curves of Reflection Canyon, part of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon. The "bathtub rings" on the walls show past water levels. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
A boat wends its way around the curves of Reflection Canyon, part of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon. The “bathtub rings” on the walls show past water levels.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

LAKE POWELL, Utah—In early September, at the abandoned Piute Farms marina on a remote edge of southern Utah’s Navajo reservation, we watched a ten-foot (three-meter) waterfall plunging off what used to be the end of the San Juan River.

Until 1990, this point marked the smooth confluence of the river with Lake Powell, one of the largest reservoirs in the U.S. But the lake has shrunk so much due to the recent drought that this waterfall has emerged, with sandy water as thick as a milkshake.

My partner DeEdda McLean and I had come to this area west of Mexican Hat, Utah, to kayak acrossLake Powell, a reservoir formed by the confluence of the San Juan and the Colorado Rivers and the holding power of Glen Canyon Dam, which lies just over the border in Arizona. Yet in place of a majestic reservoir, we saw only the thin ribbon of a reemergent river channel, which had been inundated for most of the past three decades by the lake. We called this new channel the San Powell, combining the name of the river and the lake.

NG STAFF
NG STAFF

We had also come to see firsthand how drought is changing the landscapes of the desert Southwest. Here, judging by the lack of conservation reform, water has seemed to be largely taken for granted. But our recent float suggests that profound changes may be in store for the region. (See “The American Nile.”)

Sweating in the desert heat, we loaded our 15-foot (5-meter) kayaks with two weeks’ worth of food and ten gallons of water—enough to last us two days. Drinking from the silty river or fecal-contaminated areas of Lake Powell frequented by houseboats was not an option (Glen Canyon Recreation Area, which includes the reservoir, is visited by more than two million people a year). The contours of our journey—where we camped, our hiking destinations, and how far we paddled each day—would be defined by the need to find potable springs.  Click here to read more.

Mapping Crime

DOUGPETE @ www.dougpete.wordpress.com  23 Nov 2014

world2

The Global Security Map attempts to map the world, showing us where the bad stuff is located.  For its purposes, it tries to identify “malware, phishing, spam and other malicious activities”.

Upon your first landing, you’ll be presented with the world with countries coded from green to red or low to uh oh.

I’m a big fan of infographics to immediate share an image and message and maps have always lent themselves to visualize things.  In this case, it’s the malware that the concerned, connected computer user needs to keep in mind.

You’ll definitely want to read how the site determines the colours and the severity of the threats.  The descriptions of the threats is particularly helpful. A tool such of this opens the door for discussion about safety online.  Why would some countries be orange and red?  Why would some be green?  Is Antarctica really the safest place on the planet?

Mouse over the countries and click to get the summary for that country.

canada

Can you find #1?  How about #219?

Don’t forget to click the grey triangles to open each category to reveal the details for each category.

It’s a fascinating look at our online world and a great conversation starter and launchpad for further research into online safety.

Python Explained

Gavin Thomas in www.linuxuser.co.uk    Python insights vis-a-vis the Raspberry computer.

Pythonlogo_Web

There’s a lot of focus on Python for programming on the Raspberry Pi. Is this because it’s the only way to program the Raspberry Pi?

No, not at all. As we’re generally using Linux on the Raspberry Pi, just about every major programming language can be used. C, C++, Ruby, Perl and more are all completely compatible with the Raspberry Pi. You’re not really programming the Raspberry Pi with them either – you’re creating programs that will run on the Raspberry Pi.

That’s good to know, then. If that’s the case, why concentrate on Python as much as you guys and the Raspberry Pi folk do?

It really all comes back to the core mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation: to help educate school children in computer science. This involves coding, and Python is considered an easy language to learn. It’s a language a lot of people know anyway. Plus, we have a bit more expertise in Python on the magazine, and we’re also very happy to promote the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s objectives.

What makes it so easy to use over the other languages?

Python is ‘readable’. Core variables and functions are named plainly, the structure is designed to handle a lot of white space and everything is written a lot more straightforwardly than other programming languages. What it all means is you can quickly scan some Python code and make more sense of it than other languages, which can sometimes look like a cat took a walk across a keyboard.

So readable means anyone can just look at it and understand what’s going on?

That’s not quite what it means; you would still need a basic understanding of coding and Python to recognise what specific parts mean. These can include the difference between a tuple or a list or a class and a function. These can easily be learned, though, and are generally easier to pick up than with the other languages.

It’s easy enough to teach to children?

Absolutely. It’s very similar to maths in that you’re teaching rules and methods that you can immediately produce an answer or output from. With the correct lessons, different concepts can be introduced and built upon just like anything taught in school. In fact, the incoming changes to the UK curriculum will cover coding in this exact way.

If Python’s such a simple language, does this mean it’s not very useful in the real world of programming?

That’s not the case at all – Python is used by companies around the world in ‘real programming’. It’s not the only language, though, and some companies won’t even use Python – at the very least, it sets people up to learn the intricacies of programming languages and makes learning others a little
bit easier.

Can Python interact with other programming languages?

It largely depends on the language but the quick answer is not really. There are very few, if any, projects where you’ll need to use different languages, unless they handle completely different aspects of the software. A database could be created and maintained using SQL but that’s something Python can’t handle itself anyway.

How do I create a Python program?

Like a lot of programming, you need to create a script: a file that contains all your code and tells a Python interpreter what to do when the code is run properly. You can create them in a plain text editor like gedit or even nano on the terminal and save them as .py files before testing them. The best way is to create it in an IDE though.

What is an IDE? How do I get one on the Raspberry Pi?

An integrated development environment is software that lets you create and test scripts in specific languages. You usually have a few more ways to debug your files with them as well. In the case of Python on the Raspberry Pi, you can use IDLE which is already installed and available from
the desktop.

Wait… IDLE? Python? Is that an intentional reference?

Yep, IDLE is named after Monty Python alumni Eric Idle because everyone in tech is a nerd.

I see on the Raspberry Pi that there are multiple IDLEs. One is just called IDLE and the other is called IDLE 3. What does this mean?

The standard IDLE uses Python 2, while IDLE 3 uses Python 3. They’re both two slightly different versions of Python, with 3 having a few more and different functions. Due to the popularity of Python 2, though, it’s still prevalent in tutorials and projects and included on the Raspberry Pi.

Which one should I be using?

It’s best to stick to Python 2 and therefore the normal version of IDLE. Going from 2 to 3 is not a huge deal so when the big switchover finally occurs you’ll be in a good position to learn the changes as you go.

Will the code I create on the Raspberry Pi work elsewhere?

The code is not platform-specific, so as long as you have the same modules and files on the PC you want to transfer it to it will work just fine. Some modules may be slightly different between different types of PC, depending on what’s compatible on the Pi and PC, but 99 per cent of the time you shouldn’t have
a problem.

Dark matter could be seen in GPS time glitches

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26575-dark-matter-could-be-seen-in-gps-time-glitches.html#.VG4gk7go6pr

GPS has a new job. It does a great job of telling us our location, but the network of hyper-accurate clocks in space could get a fix on something far more elusive: dark matter.

Dark matter makes up 80 per cent of the universe’s matter but scarcely interacts with ordinary matter. A novel particle is the most popular candidate, but Andrei Derevianko at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Maxim Pospelov at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada propose that kinks or cracks in the quantum fields that permeate the universe could be the culprit.

If they are right, fundamental properties such as the mass of an electron or the strength of electromagnetic fields would change at the kinks. “The effect is essentially locally modifying fundamental constants,” Derevianko says. Clocks would be affected too, measuring time slightly differently as a result.

Unique signature

That’s where GPS comes in. The network of satellites is about 50,000 kilometres in diameter, and is travelling through space – along with the entire solar system – at about 300 kilometres a second. So any time shift when the solar system passes through a cosmic kink will take a maximum of 170 seconds to move across network.

Other things could perturb GPS timekeeping, but only a signal from dark matter would have that signature, say Derevianko and Pospelov.

<a href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/N6831/jump/NewScientist/ns_section_physics-math;key=physics-math+dn26575+nologin+News+physics+GPS+dark-matter+particle-physics+atomic-clock+cosmology+quantum-field+topological-defect-+cosmology;tile=7;sz=450×250;ord=1234567890?”><img src=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/N6831/ad/NewScientist/ns_section_physics-math;key=physics-math+dn26575+nologin+News+physics+GPS+dark-matter+particle-physics+atomic-clock+cosmology+quantum-field+topological-defect-+cosmology;tile=7;sz=450×250;ord=1234567890?” /></a&ampDerevianko is already mining 15 years’ worth of GPS timing data for dark matter’s fingerprints. If he doesn’t find anything, he plans to continue the search using the Network for European Accurate Time and Frequency Transfer (NEAT-FT), a network of ground-based atomic clocks that is under construction in Europe. Each of these clocks is far more sensitive than a satellite clock.

If the cosmic kink idea is right, we could also search for dark matter using pulsars, the rapidly spinning corpses of stars that exploded as supernovae. Pulsars emit beams of electromagnetic radiation that hit Earth with periods that can be more precise than our best clocks. “There’s a tantalising hint from pulsar data,” says Derevianko. “These are like atomic clocks, highly regular.”

Pulsar quakes

Sometimes pulsars shiver in “star quakes”, the causes of which are unknown. Earlier this year, Victor Flambaum at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, suggested that kinks of dark matter could be responsible. “When a topological defect passes through a pulsar, its mass, radius and internal structure may be altered, resulting in a pulsar ‘quake’,” Flambaum wrote.

If dark matter is nothing more than cosmic kinks, it could give some people a new thing to grumble about. “I hear these stories about people getting lost using GPS,” Derevianko says. “Now they could have another excuse: maybe it was dark matter that caused them to lose their way.”

Journal reference: Nature Physics, DOI: 10.1038/nphys3137

QGIS Compared: Visualization

Boundless blog via www.directionsmag.com (reprinted Nov 17, 2014) .  Click here for the Boundlessgeo.com blog.

Gretchen Peterson  21 Oct 2014  Used with permission of BoundlessGeo.com.

Any GIS professional who’s been paying attention to the professional chatter in recent years will be wondering about QGIS and whether or not it might meet some or all of their needs. QGIS is open source, similar to proprietary GIS software, runs on a variety of operating systems, and has been steadily improving since its debut in 2002. With easy-to-install packagesOpenGeo Suite integration, and reliable support offerings, we obviously see QGIS as a viable alternative to proprietary desktop GIS software such as Esri’s ArcGIS for Desktop.

But will it work for you? The short answer is: most likely yes for visualization of most formats of spatial data, probably for analysis of raster and vector data, probably for geographic data editing, and probably for cartography. Those are all very subjective assertions based on my personal experience using QGIS for the past seven months but I have been using proprietary GIS for over fourteen years as an analyst and cartographer and have written a couple of books on the subject.

By all means give QGIS a try: download and install it, drag-and-drop some data into it, and give it a spin. This is definitely a good time to evaluate it and consider adopting it across your organization.

Visualizing spatial data in QGIS

In this first post, I’m going to focus on visualizing spatial data in QGIS. These basic functions are straightforward and easy to do in QGIS:

  1. adding datasets

  2. moving datasets up and down in the layer hierarchy

  3. zooming around the map

  4. selecting features based on simple point-and-click

  5. selecting features based on complex selection criteria

  6. viewing attributes

  7. creating graduated color schemes

Click for larger image

Strength: Versatile and efficient format support

In fact, QGIS is an effective means of viewing and exploring spatial data of almost any type. If you have complex data, you might be interested to hear that the newest release of QGIS boasts very fast, multi-threaded, rendering of spatial data that may even make it faster than leading competitors. When I began creating the map shown above, I accidentally added all of the Natural Earth 1:10m Cultural Vectors in triplicate to the project, causing some minor heart-palpitations as I realized it was going to try to render close to 100 vector layers all at once. However, my fears were unfounded as it took only a few seconds for them to render once they were all added. In the realm of visualization, it does most of the other tasks that a GIS professional would expect as well, including support for custom symbol sets (in SVG format). Adding GeoJSON data is simple, just drag a geojson file onto the Layers list. Here, we show a portion of James Fee’s GeoJSON repository of baseball stadiums:

Click for larger image

Mixed results: Raster visualization

That said, raster visualization can yield unexpected results depending on what is desired. Some raster datasets have tables that associate bands with RGB values such that specific cell-types are rendered certain colors. Often, landcover datasets will have this kind of structure so that, for example, the raster is rendered with blue for water, green for grass, white for ice, and so on. Unfortunately, QGIS doesn’t yet support rendering based on associated table files for rasters. Another slight irritation is the continuing use of binary ARC/INFO GRID formats by some agencies who distribute raster data to the public. If you have one of these datasets, QGIS can open it but you must point to the w001001.adf file using the raster data import button.

Mixed results: On-the-fly reproduction

One of the most important ways to make GIS user-friendly is to support on-the-fly projection. I still remember when projecting on-the-fly became a part of the software that I used to use. It was the end of 1999, and life was so much easier when multiple datasets from multiple agencies in multiple projections could all be jammed together into a single project, producing a map where all the data layers were in the correct projected space. This was because reprojecting not only added extra steps requiring you to reproject everything into a common coordinate system even if all you wanted to do was visualize the data, it also meant maintaining multiple copies of the same dataset, which contributed to folder clutter and using up of valuable disk space. QGIS supports reprojection on-the-fly but it is an option that must be set in the project properties dialog. Some glitches with projections still seem to occur from time to time. Zooming in, for example, sometimes causes the map to zoom to a different place than expected. However, this unexpected behavior is inconsistent, not a showstopper, and may be fixed soon.

Click for larger image.

Hidden gem: Context

The other important aspect of visualizing data is having enough underlying context for the data. Country boundaries, city labels, roads, oceans, and other standard map data are crucial. Proprietary GIS software generally contains basemap layers that can easily be turned on and off to support visualization in this manner. QGIS also has this capability, in the form of the OpenLayers plugin, which serves up Google, OpenStreetMap, Bing, and Yahoo basemaps at the click of a button. The OpenLayers plugin is free and installs just like any other QGIS plugin—you search for it in thePlugins menu, press “install,” and make your basemap choice in the Web menu.

Click for larger image.

Conclusion

While QGIS may need a small amount of improvement when it comes to raster visualization and on-the-fly projection, these aren’t hindrances to a typical visualization workflow and are only mentioned here out of respect for a fair and balanced assessment. By and large, my testing has convinced me that the robust visualization capabilities that QGIS offers provide more than enough impetus for many organizations to make the switch to QGIS. In later posts, I’ll discuss how QGIS performs with respect to analysisediting, and cartography.

Reprinted with permission from the Boundless Blog.)

Map Story: Global Fishing Watch

Home

Global Fishing Watch is the product of a technology partnership between SkyTruth, Oceana, and Google that is designed to show all of the trackable fishing activity in the ocean. This interactive web tool – currently in prototype stage – is being built to enable anyone to visualize the global fishing fleet in space and time. Global Fishing Watch will reveal the intensity of fishing effort around the world, one of the stressors contributing to the precipitous decline of our fisheries.

With hundreds of millions of people around the world depending on our ocean for their livelihoods, and many more relying on the ocean for food, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ocean is a critical global priority. We need a tool that harnesses the power of citizen engagement to hold our leaders accountable for maintaining an abundant ocean.

IUCN Red List Shows the Appetite for Resources Pushes New Species to the Brink

https://sensorsandsystems.com/news/top-stories/biodiversity/35226-iucn-red-list-shows-the-appetite-for-resources-pushes-new-species-to-the-brink.html#sthash.TS7TlbDD.dpuf

By: IUCN  18 Nov 2014

Sydney, Australia, Nov. 17, 2014—Fishing, logging, mining, agriculture and other activities to satisfy our growing  appetite for resources are threatening the survival of thePacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel and Chinese Cobra. The destruction of habitat has caused the extinction of a Malaysian mollusc and the world’s largest known earwig, andthreatens the survival of many other species – according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney, Australia.

The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 76,199 assessed species, of which 22,413 are threatened with extinction.  As nearly half of thenewly assessed species occur within protected areas, IUCN calls for better management of these places to stop further biodiversity decline.

“Each update of the IUCN Red List makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend. Experts warn that threatened species poorly represented in protected areas are declining twice as fast as those which are well represented. Our responsibility is to increase the number of protected areas and ensure that they are effectively managed so that they can contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity.”

With today’s update, the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) has moved from the Least Concern category to Vulnerable, which means that it is now threatened with extinction. The species is extensively targeted by the fishing industry for the sushi and sashimi markets predominantly in Asia. Most of the fish caught are juveniles which have not yet had a chance to reproduce and the population is estimated to have declined by 19 to 33% over the past 22 years.

Existing marine protected areas do not provide sufficient protection for the species. The expansion of marine protected areas, within 200 miles of the coast and incorporating breeding areas, could help conserve the species, according to IUCN experts.“The Pacific Bluefin Tuna market value continues to rise,” says Bruce Collette, Chair, IUCN Species Survival CommissionTuna and Billfish Specialist Group.  “Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term.”

The Chinese Pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis) has entered the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Its global population is estimated to have declined by 99.99% over the past 40 years due to overexploitation. A popular food fish in Japan, it is among the top four fugu species consumed as sashimi. One of the world’s most poisonous fish, fugu need to be expertly prepared before consumption. The Chinese Pufferfish occurs in several marine protected areas throughout the coastal waters of China. Conservation measures, such as the creation of marine protected areas which are annually closed to trawling, have been implemented. However, harvest still needs to be urgently controlled to prevent the species’ extinction, say IUCN experts.

The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata), listed as Endangered is threatened by barriers to migration; climate change; parasites; pollution; habitat loss and commercial harvest.  Due to the decline of the Japanese Eel (Anguilla japonica), also listed as Endangered, the intensive eel farming industry in East Asia is seeking to replenish seed stock with other species, such as the American Eel. This has led to increased reports of poaching of the American Eel in the United States. Whilst the combination of these threats is placing pressure on the species, positive conservation action could result in an improvement in its status.

The Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) has been newly assessed as Vulnerable. Its population has declined by 30 to 50% over the past 20 years. Chinese Cobras are found in south-eastern China, Taiwan, northern Viet Nam and Lao PDR, and are among the top animal species exported from mainland China to Hong Kong for the food market. Chinese Cobras are found in protected areas such as Ailaoshan Nature Reserve, Daweishan Nature Reserve (Yunnan) and Kenting National Park (Taiwan).  Although international trade in the species is regulated, there is an urgent need to strengthen national conservation initiatives to ensure its survival.

“The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Group. “We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats.”

This Red List update also highlights several species that have been impacted by habitat destruction, including all 66 threatened chameleon species, despite some of these species occurring within protected areas. The Giant East Usambara Blade-horned Chameleon, Kinyongia matschiei, endemic to the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania, has been listed as Endangered. Like many other chameleons, this species uses colour for communication. It also darkens when stressed and wraps its tail around branches to remain secure. Found in the Amani Nature Reserve, a protected area, this reptile is threatened by the clearance of forests for agriculture, charcoal production and extraction of timber.

The Black Grass-dart Butterfly (Ocybadistes knightorum) has entered the IUCN Red List as Endangered.  Found only in the northern New South Wales coastal region of Australia, the species is threatened primarily due to the invasion of introduced weeds and coastal development destroying its habitat. A significant proportion of its habitat exists in protected areas such asBongil Bongil National Park and Gaagal Wonggan (South Beach) National Park, and the effective management of these areas could play an important role in securing the species’ future. The threat from weed invasion is being managed in some reserves where key habitat patches have responded well to weeding, resulting in successful habitat rehabilitation.

Two species have been declared Extinct due to habitat destruction. Plectostoma sciaphilum, a snail known from a singlelimestone hill in Peninsular Malaysia is now listed as Extinct as a result of the hill being entirely destroyed by limestone quarrying by a large company. The future of several other species in the region is uncertain for similar reasons. Whilst some mining companies are starting to take the necessary steps to reduce impact, IUCN is urging stronger commitment to prevent further extinctions.

The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) – the world’s largest known earwig attaining a length of up to 80 mm – has also gone extinct. Previously found in Horse Point Plain, a protected area on St Helena Island, the last confirmed live adult of this insect was seen in May 1967.  Since the early 1960s, its habitat has been degraded by the removal of nearly all shelter-providing surface stones for construction purposes. Increased predator pressures from mice, rats and invasive predatory invertebrates also contributed to the earwig’s extinction.

“These recent extinctions could have been avoided through better habitat protection,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Today’s update also highlights two amphibian species which have improved in status thanks to successful management of Colombia’s Ranita Dorada Reserve, where they occur. We need to take more responsibility for our actions to see many more successes like this one, and to have a positive impact on the health of our planet.”

About IUCN

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.  The world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 professional staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN’s headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland.  www.iucn.org

About the Species Survival Commission

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7,500 experts.  SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity.  SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.

 About BirdLife

BirdLifeInternationalistheworld’slargestnatureconservationPartnership. Togetherweare120BirdLifePartnersworldwide–onepercountry–andgrowing, withalmost11millionsupporters,7000localconservationgroupsand7400staff. Findoutmoreat  www.birdlife.org/www.facebook.com/BirdLifeInternational

About Botanic Gardens Conservation International

BGCI is an international organization that exists to ensure the world-wide conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being and climate change. BGCI represents over 700 members – mostly botanic gardens – in 118 countries. We aim to support and empower our members and the wider conservation community so that their knowledge and expertise can be applied to reversing the threat of extinction crisis facing one third of all plants. http://www.bgci.org

About Conservation International (CI)

Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world.  For more information, please visit atwww.conservation.org, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. http://www.microsoft.com

About NatureServe

NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to providing the scientific basis for effective conservation action. Through its network of 82 natural heritage programs and conservation data centres in the United States, Canada, and Latin America, NatureServe provides a unique body of detailed scientific information and conservation biodiversity expertise about the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the Americas. www.natureserve.org

About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25 per cent by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders. www.kew.org

About Sapienza University of Rome

With over 700 years of history and 145,000 students, Sapienza is the largest University in Europe, the second in the world after El Cairo: a city within the city. The University includes 11 faculties and 67 departments. In Sapienza there are over 4,500 professors, and 5,000 administrative and technical staff.  Sapienza offers a wide choice of courses including 300 degree programs and 200 specialized qualifications. Students coming from other regions are over 30,000 and the foreign students are over 7,000. Sapienza plans and carries out important scientific investigations in almost all disciplines, achieving high-standard results both on a national and on an international level. Professor Luigi Frati has been the Rector of Sapienza University since November 2008.http://www.uniroma1.it/

About Texas A&M University

From humble beginnings in 1876 as Texas’ first public institution of higher learning, to a bustling 5,200-acre campus with a nationally recognized faculty, Texas A&M University is one of a select few universities with land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant designations. With an enrolment of about half men and half women, 25 percent of the freshman class are the first in their family to attend college. Here, 39,000-plus undergraduates and more than 9,400 graduate students have access to world-class research programs and award-winning faculty. Texas A&M has two branch campuses, one in Galveston, Texas, and one in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. This research-intensive flagship university with 10 colleges was recently ranked first in the nation by Smart Money magazine for “pay-back ratio” (what graduates earn compared to the cost of their education). The 2011 U.S. News and World Report ranked Texas A&M second nationally in their “Great Schools, Great Prices” category among public universities and 22nd overall. Many degree programs are ranked among the top 10 in the country. www.tamu.edu