IGN maps the impact of human activity on landscapes

Mapping the Anthropocene ​, this is the new challenge that the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information, well known to the general public under the three letters that make its mark: IGN. The former National Geographic Institute, a public establishment of an administrative nature created in 1940, has been producing road, forest, staff and hiking maps for more than eighty years. In 2021, he is committed to putting his skills at the service of decision-makers, by public policy support, in the fight against global warming.

This small revolution ​, as it qualifies Sébastien Soriano, the director general of the Institutetakes shape with the publication of first Atlas of Anthropocene Maps by IGN. The house promises to establish a new one each year, with the aim of produce thematic maps, on a limited number of major ecological issues, which reflect the rapid changes in the territory and the consequences on the environment. Five major topics are sifted through theAtlas 2022: the artificialization of the soil, the changing forest, biodiversity and its refuges, the erosion of the coasts and extreme natural episodes.

What is the degree of soil artificialization in France? The IGN has undertaken to map and analyze the entire territory between now and 2024. This data will help local elected officials to achieve the “zero soil artificialisation” (ZAN) objective by 2050. | IGN 2022

To measure the phenomenon of soil artificialisation, the IGN entrusts the satellite photos it has to an artificial intelligence, capable of distinguishing natural spaces, fields, forests, buildings, car parks, stadiums, housing estates… and of calculating the progress of constructions in time. What to inform the municipalities on the progress of their urban sprawl, knowing that the climate and resilience law of 2021 requires them to halve this rate by 2030, before reaching zero net land take in 2050. This Zane today worries many local elected officials, who do not see how they will be able to meet the objective in the long term. IGN will provide them with the tool they lacked, Gers being the first department for which data is available. Those of nine others are in production, including data from Ille-et-Vilaine and Sarthe. All of France must be produced by the end of 2024 ​, says the Institute.

LiDAR technology, used to map France in 3D, makes it possible to precisely observe the evolution of the “coastline” or forest areas. | IGN 2022

Another particularly interesting decision-making aid offered by the new Atlas: the monitoring of forest areas. France had 10 million hectares of forest in 1908 (19% of the territory) against 17 million today (31%). Between 2011 and 2019, the surface of the French metropolitan forest, which absorbs 83 million tonnes of CO2 every year, increased by two million hectares, i.e. ten times the surface area of ​​Paris each year ​. This numbers seem encouraging, but the forest increases more slowly in volume than in the past, tempers the IGN. In question, the vitality of the trees which is deteriorating because of the fires, which this summer ravaged more than 62,000 ha, or because of repeated droughts and diseases.

Reading theAtlas 2022 of the IGN makes it possible to understand the changes at work and to take the measure of them in a few maps. He wants to help us change scale to be able to act ​. Citizens included, by making it available to everyone in a few clicks, the document being downloadable free of charge from the Institute’s website (ign.fr).

IGN publishes its first atlas “Mapping the Anthropocene”, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Institute’s website. | IGN 2022

Infrared and LiDAR

The precision of the LiDAR technology, used until now to map France in 3D, is an extremely reliable resource to monitor the progress of coastline in time. Combined with color infrared aerial photography, it allows describe the soil in detail, including the plant cover and the different stages of vegetation to observe the French forest as closely as possible.

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IGN maps the impact of human activity on landscapes


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