Integration of Miombo regional and global databases for visualizing and querying in an easy handling environment on CD-ROM support.

Joan MASO, Paul V. DESANKER, Josep-Ignasi AUGÉ, Xavier BAULIES and Xavier PONS

Many researchers are interested in global data or in data at continental scale. This paper describes the elaboration of the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo" for the south African zones forming the Miombo region. This way, researchers of the area can access a huge amount of information from a unified source. The CD-ROM integrates in a GIS: digital elevation models, administrative boundaries, daily monthly and gridded climate data, vegetation and land use-land cover data, AVHRR images, population and socioeconomic datasets. An Internet browser together with the MiraMon GIS software is used to easily access the CD-ROM data.

KEYWORDS: GIS, Miombo, Africa, MiraMon, CD-ROM, Global Database, e-GIS.


Global and continental database compilation is a challenge for new geographical information systems (GIS). The different country researchers need the information in knowledge networks, and the processing and storing capabilities of the new computers make it possible. In most cases there are public domain data of 30 seconds of arc resolution or more (1 km approximately) making reference to different subjects and nearly world wide. An example of this kind of data is the GTOPO30 (Digital Elevation Model with 1km resolution) from the U.S. Geological Survey. The availability of data from different sources and subjects allows the compilation and unification, as well as its processing as a whole in a GIS with different information on several thematic areas and to obtain interdependencies between them. CD-ROM support is excellent for putting together and redistributing this data, because it combines big storage capabilities, compatibility across platforms and low manufacturing cost for small or large number of copies. In the future, these data will be available from Internet but currently transfer rates are not fast enough for these purposes. The design and implementation of GIS must take into consideration Internet technologies and standards in order to facilitate access to geographical data in the net.

This work is centered in Miombo region. Miombo comprises those ecosystems in the seasonal tropics dominated by trees of the closely related genera Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Isoberlinia (subfamily Caesalpinioideae, family Fabaceae - the legumes). Miombo woodland is the dominant vegetation type of the Central African plateau, extending from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), through Zambia, Malawi and eastern Angola, to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Functionally similar ecosystems with Isoberlinia often dominant, but lacking Brachystegia and Julbernardia, occur in the Guinea savannas of West Africa.

Human activities are pivotal in the dynamics of Miombo. People have transformed or modified the structure of large areas of woodland through conversion to permanently cultivated land; harvesting for fuel wood and charcoal; frequent burning; and, in drier areas, heavy grazing by livestock. The rates of transformation and modification seem to be increasing as populations grow and economic conditions change, often for the worse. Such changes will have long-term socio-economic and environmental consequences, including declines in the availability of natural resources in the woodlands; fewer inputs to sustain the fertility of increasing areas of arable land; reductions in grazing land; and a range of environmental impacts affecting ecological functioning, carbon storage, trace gas emissions, hydrology and regional climate.

The Miombo Network [1] is a cooperative research initiative into the causes and consequences of land-use and land-cover change in the Miombo ecosystems of south central Africa. The aims of the Network are to develop a better understanding of how land use and land-use change in Miombo affect land cover and associated ecosystem processes; to assess the impact that these changes are having on peoples' livelihoods; to know the contribution that these changes are making to global change; and to know how global change in turn could affect land-use dynamics and ecosystem structure and function. The Network is one of the initiating activities of the IGBP/IHDP (International Human Dimensions Program) Land-Use and Land-Cover Change (LUCC) core project/research program. It is also a vehicle for mobilizing and enhancing regional scientific capacity in sub-equatorial Africa under the auspices of START, the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training, an initiative sponsored jointly by IGBP, IHDP, and the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), to build regional scientific capacity in global change research.

To understand how ecological and social processes change as land use is intensified, an International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP) Terrestrial Transect study, the Miombo Network, was initiated at a workshop in Zomba, Malawi in December 1995.

A GIS is a computerized system [3] that handles geographically-located information (data input, storage, query, analysis and map composition). A GIS is composed of three basic parts: hardware, software and data. The chosen software for this implementation is a simplified version of MiraMon. MiraMon (literally "Look at the World") is a program for displaying, querying and editing raster and vector maps. It is a not-for-profit product aimed at scientific, educational and environmental management purposes, purposes in which an available and rigorous tool is needed. Raster maps can be any kind of remote sensing data, orthophotographs, digital elevation models, conventional thematic maps in a grid-based structure, etc; vector maps can be any kind of graphic representation based on objects defined by points (i.e., nests, water points, etc), lines (i.e.,rivers, roads, etc) or polygons (i.e.,forests, administrative entities, etc).


In 1997 the International Project Office LUCC (Land Use and Cover Change) and the Miombo Network ordered the Miombo data CD-ROM which was elaborated at CREAF (Centre de Recerca Ecolōgica i Aplicacions Forestals) [2]. The goal of the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo" was to compile as many datasets as possible from both the international and regional communities and make these available to researchers that in most cases do not have access to them or do not even know them. This task is being done at the beginning of the Miombo Network activities in order to provide everyone with a common starting ground, to reduce duplication of effort in compiling regional datasets where these exist, and to encourage development of new sets where there are obvious gaps. Every effort has been made to make data accessible using technology which is at the hands of researchers in the region (in terms of GIS software and hardware).

The limits of the Miombo region are fuzzy. It was decided to reduce the interest zone to that lying between latitudes 0 and 30ēS and longitudes 5E and 60E. This restriction has been applied to most of the raster and vector data. Data formats used in this product are compressed rasters and topologically structured vectors (points, arcs/nodes and polygons). Some of the data was of world or continental scope, in which case the data has been cut (clipped) to the above mentioned geographical extent. In the case of regional data limits have not been altered.

The "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo" contains:

  1. digital elevation models and hydrological models,
  2. administrative boundaries,
  3. daily, monthly and gridded climate data,
  4. vegetation and land use/land cover data,
  5. AVHRR images,
  6. population and socioeconomic datasets.

It can be noted that the majority of the data is biophysical, with very little detailed socioeconomic data which reflects the critical need for collation and synthesis of socioeconomic data across the region. Table 1 shows the size, in megabytes, for each kind of data.

Digital Elevation Models and hydrological models
Administrative Boundaries
Daily climate
Points /Tabular
Monthly and gridded climate
Points /Tabular and raster
Raster and Polygons/Tabular
Land Use and Land Cover
AVHRR images (NDVI)
Raster and Polygons/Tabular
Socioeconomic (country wide)

Table1: Contents in "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo", the size in megabytes and the store format.

Apart from data, the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo" contains bibliographies and documents that support global change research, data, and in particular, proposed Miombo Network research activities.

During the elaboration of this CD-ROM, tools were created to integrate huge volumes of information from different formats and projection systems. Original data from the zone, coming from different organizations and different software packages, came in several formats which represented one of the biggest difficulties when combining all datasets. The different sources of several data compelled us to implement specific tools for data homogenization in the formats supported by MiraMon: Raster files had been converted to the MiraMon compressed raster format and to a associated table (only needed in thematic rasters). Polygon vector files had been converted to the MiraMon topological vector format; this step allowed to maintain the link between graphical objects and their associated alphanumeric tables. Point databases (meteorological and climatic data) have been transformed from their original tabular data into a point layer, representing weather stations, with all tabular information linked. A similar procedure has been applied to socioeconomic, country wide tabular data; these data has been transformed to a polygon layer, representing countries, with their tabular data linked. All tabular data was saved in the well-known DBF (dBASE IV) format.

In order for a GIS to overlap different layers or information is that they share the projection system and projection system units. It was decided to use latitude-longitude (equirectangular) projection because of its simplicity and because this projection is used in most original sources of global data. Although this projection lacks the equal-area and conformal properties [4], it is not an important drawback because GIS software packages should allow reprojection and only a small set of data originally came in other projection systems.

The "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo" project arose out of the need to make data widely available to Miombo Network projects and more generally to regional scientists. Data are largely unaltered, even where problems are known to exist, except for obvious errors that would impede their use, such as climate records that are out of phase in the data archive.

In order to have maximum compatibility between the documents stored in the CD-ROM, the HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) format for text files was chosen. There are a lot of free web browsers in many computer platforms that allow to read HTML documents in local mode (without network connection). The HTML format allows to produce user friendly documents containing graphic images that can represent a simplified view of a map (quick-look), photographs or icons that help the user to identify some important information, as well as links to other web pages and e-mail addresses. Another important aspect is that active texts can be linked to:

  1. other documents in html format,
  2. Adobe Acrobat format
  3. quick-look graphic images in GIF or JPG formats
  4. MiraMon maps.

In the last case, it is necessary to bridge the browser and the MiraMon program. MiraMon maps are plain text files that essentially contain a list of the raster and vector layers that compose a given map. File paths to these graphical layers, stored in the map, refer to the disk location of the map file (relative path). Some browsers like Netscape Navigator v .3.0 (the browser included in the CD-ROM) create a temporal copy of the map in a temporal directory and send this copy to MiraMon, which causes file paths to become invalid. To overcome this problem an intermediate application sends the true map (not a copy) to MiraMon.

Finally, we used JavaScript and frame capabilities to improve the environment by creating active pages that run an automatic demo, explaining the user how to deal with the CD-ROM and introducing the user to the MiraMon GIS.

A simplified version of the MiraMon GIS was prepared as the software for visualization of spatial and tabular data. This system is excellent for browsing maps and has zoom and query by location and by attributes capabilities, either in raster or vectors formats; maps can also be printed. The most important capabilities present in this simplified version are:

  1. "MiraMon Maps", which are compositions of raster and vector files based on the basic file types (the map file is small because it only contains references to the used files). MiraMon Maps also store information about printing parameters (scale, layout, etc).
  2. Query by location (where am I?, what is here?) and by attribute (where is this phenomenon? where is such feature?), either on raster and vector files without needing to generate new files. Query by attribute is done on basis of any database field or raster cell (even in compressed files).
  3. All information recovery processes are actually done over the graphic database and not over simplifications prepared for fast displaying. Thus, even zoom operations allow to display all possible information at any given moment, which is a necessary feature for a geographical information system. In short, you always get the maximum visual information with regard to your graphic board resolution.
  4. Coordinates are always treated with double precision (15-16 significant figures)
  5. Individual color palettes for each loaded raster or vector. Palette editing is also possible.
  6. It can print large files in large plotters, allowing professional control of map printing (scale, coordinates scope, paper position, grid ticks, etc).
  7. It comes with an easy to use viewer and editor of database tables (MiraDades).
  8. MiraMon Maps can be directly copied Enhanced MetaFile format to the Windows clipboard, which allows via to paste them to other applications such as Word and PowerPoint 97, Corel 7, etc. Note that special paste of enhanced metafiles is not a screen dump (bitmap), but a high quality paste, preserving the full detail of the original as in a printer output, ideal for presentations and reports.

Due to the amount of data in the CD-ROM only a part of the data is in its original format. Nevertheless, all CD-ROM data can be exported to other usual GIS formats for further analysis.

The CD-ROM support has been chosen for several reasons: large storage capacity, up to 720Mb; lasting time; insensibility to magnetic fields and light weight -which allow reliable and cheap mailingg; full compatibility with the most widely used computers; low cost per unit and easy and cheap production of beta copies for test and revision.


Current technology in GIS, Web browsers and hardware allows to make an interactive and easy to use working environment. Researchers involved in the Miombo area have a consistently compiled CD-ROM with an easy to use interface to explore and exploit the datasets.

This CD-ROM could establish a new and easy way of producing CD-ROMs which integrate GIS and Internet technology. We propose this CD-ROM to the scientific community as a step towards defining a standard way of distributing map data in CD-ROM support or in Internet.

This CD-ROM defines one possibility for working with GIS in Internet (e-GIS). When Internet becomes faster it will be possible to query an e-GIS. It will put the data closer to final users and in a way as easy as sending an e-mail.

Figure 1:Integrated browse environment for the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē 1: Miombo" datasets. A MiraMon visualization example of a digital elevation model and a meteorological table.


The Miombo CD-ROM has been the effort of many people to which the Miombo Network, the IGBP/IHDP LUCC project, and the IGBP-DIS project are most grateful. These include a planning committee that met in October 1996 in Washington D.C. (Xavier Baulies, Paul V. Desanker, Chris Justice, Ichtiaque Rasool, David Skole and Gerald Szejwach). Malanding Jaiteh (Michigan Technological University) helped in compiling some of the data. Anna Lleopart (ICC) supplied significant technical advice and collaboration. Caroline Nunes (LUCC-IPO) gave helpful organizational support. Xavier Baulies supervised the whole process in the scope of the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē 1 : Miombo" Activity. Special thanks are given to Chris Justice, Gerard Szejwach, Hassan Virji and Larry Kohler for their support.

This CD-ROM was made possible by generous funding from the following (in alphabetical order): IGBP Data and Information System, Institut Cartografic de Catalunya (ICC), Spain; International Human Dimensions Programme for the Global Environmental Change (IHDP); International START Secretariat; NASA MTPE LCLUC Program and Global Environmental Change Program (GECP) at University of Virginia, USA.

Sources of each dataset are included in the "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1: Miombo," and we are very grateful to the many authors that have shared their data widely.

Finally, we want to acknowledge Netscape. Communications Corporation. "Netscape" and "Netscape Navigator" are the registered trademarks of Netscape Communications Corporation in the United States and in other countries.


  1. Paul V. Deanker, Peter G.H. Frost, Christopher O. Justice and Robert J. Scholes   The Miombo Network: Framework for a Terrestrial Transect Study of Land-Use and Land-Cover Change in the Miombo Ecosystems of Central Africa. &nbspIGBP Report 41 The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), Stockholm, Sweden, 1997.
  2. "LUCC CD-ROM Series. Nē1 : Miombo". LUCC International Project Office, Institut Cartogrāfic de Catalunya, Parc Barcelona Catalonia Spain.
  3. Burrough P.A. (1986) Principes of Geographical Information Systems for Land Resources Assessment. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Snyder J.P. (1987)  Map Projections. A Working Manual. U.S. Geologial Survey profesional paper 1395. United States Government Printing Office, Washinton.


J.Masķ is a researcher and programmer at CREAF where he is working in the MiraMon project. He is also electronic engineering teacher at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Escola Universitaria de Sabadell.

Among its interests are development of software tools for remote sensing and GIS applications, and use of this tools for doing cartographical products integrated in a GIS. Also collaborates in a RS and GIS research.

He joined CREAF. in 1995, coming from the Electronic Engineering Department at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Born in 1969 and graduated in Physics by the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Joan has a MS degree on Electronic Engineering from the same University.

Centre de Recerca Ecolōgica i Aplicacions Forestals, CREAF
Edifici C
Facultat de Cičncies
Universitat Autōnoma de Barcelona
E08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
Tel/Fax: +34 93 5811312
URL: https://www.creaf.uab.cat


Paul Desanker is a Assistant Research Professor, Ecological Modeling at Department of Environmental Sciences on the University of Virginia . where he is responsible of Global Environmental Change Program - Africa. His current projects are Coupling Land-Use and Land Cover Change with Ecosystem Processes (NASA LCLUC), Alternative Landscape Management (USDA NRI), Atmospheric Forcing of Biogeochemistry of Miombo, The IGBP Miombo Network, Miombo Ecosystem Transect Study (METS) Moisture and Nutrient Control of Miombo Structure and Function, Process Modeling of Tree Growth and Climate Variability, Africa and Global Change Bibliography, Foundations of Global Change and Introduction to Forest and Ecological Modeling Handbook.

He received his B.Sc.(Hons) degree. in Forestry in 1988 from University of Aberdeen, Scotland, a.MS degree in Statistics in 1991 from Michigan Technological University, USA and a Ph.D. degree in Forest Biometrics in 1992 from the Michigan Technological University, USA.

Global Environmental Change Program
Department of Environmental Sciences

University of Virginia
Clark Hall, Charlottesville
VA 22903, USA
Tel: 1 (804) 924 3382
Fax: 1 (804) 982 2137
URL: http://miombo.gecp.virginia.edu

Josep-Ignasi AUGÉ

J.I. Augé is a geographer and cartographer at Institut Cartogrāfic de Catalunya (ICC), where he is the Information Officer of the Land Use and Land Cover Change (LUCC) International Project Office, a scientific project co-sponsored by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Project (IGBP) of ICSU and the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) of ISSC.

Among its interests are remote sensing applications, remote sensing and GIS integration, land cover mapping, land use mapping, utility and use of cartographical products, global environmental change, and socially and ecologically sustainable development.

He joined ICC in 1983. He was Head of Cartographic Distribution until 1993, and worked in the Remote Sensing Unit, in terrestrial thematic applications of remote sensing, until 1996. Born in 1961 and graduated in Human and Regional Geography by the Universitat of Barcelona.

LUCC International Project Office
Institut Cartogrāfic de Catalunya

Parc de Montjuīc, s.n
E-08038 - Barcelona
Tel: +34 3 4252900. Ext. 3264
Fax: +34 93 4267442
URL: http://www.icc.es/lucc


Xavier Baulies i Bochaca is Ecologist and Cartographer. Currently he is the Executive Officer of the International Project Office of the LUCC (Land Use and Cover Change) project co-sponsored by IGBP-IHDP (International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme - International Human Dimensions Programme). His earlier research, at the Barcelona University, was in Plant Ecology and Phytosociology to analyse the distribution of the vegetal communities. He was proposed to map the alpine vegetation of the Catalan Pyrenees by means of satellite imagery and aerial photography and he started working in Remote Sensing and Cartography.

He was the Head of Thematic Applications of Remote Sensing at ICC (Institut Cartogrāfic de Catalunya) since 1987. Expert in remote sensing and GIS, he was actively participating in initiatives related to land cover mapping in Catalonia, Spain and Europe. He was responsible for a number of experimental and operational projects. Responsible for the CASI sensor (Compact Airborne Spectrographic Imager) experimental and operational applications (e.g. forestry and agricultural inventories, water pollution and vegetation mapping). Project co-ordinator of CORINE Land Cover project in Spain for the Eastern Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. He was the co-ordinator of land use and cover mapping in Catalonia, and developer of specific nomenclatures and methodologies also for Spain. Co-ordinator of agricultural remote sensing projects (agricultural statistics and CAP control of subsidies by means of remote sensing). Responsible for forest fires data base (1984-1996) production by using satellite and airborne imagery. Recently he was working in the development of expert systems for land cover classification and of geomatic data integration methodologies using Remote Sensing and GIS techniques.

LUCC International Project Office
Institut Cartografic de Catalunya

Parc de Montjuic s/n
E08038 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 4252900
Fax: +34 93 4267442
URL: http://www.icc.es/lucc

Xavier PONS

Xavier Pons received his BS degree in Biology in 1988, a MS degree in Botany in 1990, a MS degree in Geography in 1995, and a Ph.D. degree in Remote Sensing and GIS in1992, all from the Universitat Autōnoma de Barcelona. His main work has been done in radiometric and geometric corrections of satellite imagery, in cartography of ecological and forest parameters form airborne sensors, in studies of the spectral response of Mediterranean vegetation and in GIS development, both in terms of data structure and organization and in terms of software writing.

He has recently worked in descriptive climatology models, in modeling forest fire hazards and in analysis of landscape changes from long series of satellite images.

He is professor at the Department of Geography on the Universitat Autōnoma de Barcelona and coordinates research activities in GIS and Remote Sensing at the Centre for Ecological Research and Applied Forestry.

Departament de Geografia (Faculatat de Lletres)
and Centre de Recerca Ecolōgica i Aplicacions Forestals, CREAF

Edifici C
Facultat de Cičncies
Universitat Autōnoma de Barcelona
E08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
Tel/Fax: +34 93 5811312
URL: https://www.creaf.uab.cat