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Free and Open Source GIS Tools: Role and Relevance in the Environmental Assessment Community
PURUCKER, S. T., H. E. GOLDEN, G. F. LANIAK, L. S. MATOTT, D. J. MCGARVEY, AND K. L. WOLFE. Free and Open Source GIS Tools: Role and Relevance in the Environmental Assessment Community. Chapter 18, M. Madden (ed.), Manual of Geographic Information Systems. American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Bethesda, MD, , 293-310, (2009).
This chapter surveys common environmental assessment tools used with GIS.
The presence of an explicit geographical context in most environmental decisions can complicate assessment and selection of management options. These decisions typically involve numerous data sources, complex environmental and ecological processes and their associated models, risk assessment and cost-benefit considerations, as well as competing stakeholder interests that reflect different decision objectives. This trend has driven a steady increase in available GIS-based environmental decision support software toolkits. Free and open source software (FOSS) is a significant portion of these capabilities. This chapter surveys common environmental assessment tools used with GIS. It does not aim to be comprehensive, given the number of available tools, but to go into detail on a few selected tools. Although some of the tools can be linked to a proprietary GIS environment, the focus here is on FOSS approaches and available freeware (proprietary software distributed freely). Surveyed topics include tools for accessing environmental data sets, performing aquatic and terrestrial assessments, modeling atmospheric deposition processes, and handling uncertainty. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the advantages and limitations of FOSS GIS approaches for environmental assessments.