OSU scientists introduce lavishly illustrated China atlas

March 2, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Two Oregon State University scientists have created a unique new kind of atlas that lavishly and literally maps the results of a 10-year research partnership between the People's Republic of China, OSU and the Oregon grass seed industry.

The atlas, officially titled "Visualizing China's Future Agriculture: Climate, Soil, and Suitability Maps for Improved Decision Making," contains scores of unique and colorful maps that cover China.

David Hannaway, an OSU forage crops specialist, and Chris Daly, OSU climatologist and director of the PRISM climate mapping group, compiled the book. They call it the "China Atlas" for short, but the 296-page volume is not your average atlas. It is the first work of its kind to offer an extensive collection of maps that show climate, soil characteristics and plant species suitability for an entire country.

Hannaway and Daly are both members of the OSU China Working Group, a cooperative effort between OSU and the People's Republic of China to identify mutually beneficial research and education projects and programs.

The two developed a web-based Internet map server using Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies to display the maps. Hundreds of the maps from the research project are reproduced in the new book.

"We built the online mapping system to allow users to quickly identify grasses and legumes that are best adapted to the climate and soils of a particular geographic location in the People's Republic of China," said Hannaway. "An important outcome of the project has been that the mapping tool is helping the Oregon grass seed industry market forage and turf grass seed in China."

Land managers in China are interested in forage grasses for livestock production and to control soil erosion problems on rangelands. They also want turf grasses to beautify their cities and suburban areas. Over the past decade, Oregon grass seed sales there have increased from nearly nothing to 15 million pounds per year, Hannaway noted.

"After we had finished the project and put materials on the Web, there were a lot of incredibly useful and beautiful maps that we thought should be put together into a tangible book form," said Hannaway.

The atlas should be helpful to many different people, Daly said.

"Many administrators and officials don't have time to read research reports, but they will look at a book like this atlas," said Daly. "The striking visuals draw people in and are really useful in helping us show the products of 10 years of research."

The atlas already has proved to be especially useful with Chinese officials and decision-makers.

"Because of the language barrier many officials we worked with (in China) didn't really understand what we were trying to accomplish through our research," Daly said. "The atlas has helped break down those barriers."

In a larger sense Hannaway sees the atlas as a concrete result of what cooperation between the two countries can achieve.

"The book offers a wonderful visual example of how powerful GIS technology applied to climate mapping can be," he said. "It helps people who aren't scientists understand what we're trying to accomplish through this research."

Hannaway said the work was partially supported by a grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Emerging Markets Program, and is part of a 10-year project involving the Oregon Seed Council, as well as many cooperators, agencies, organizations, universities, and commercial companies.

For more information about "Visualizing China's Future Agriculture: Climate, Soil, and Suitability Maps for Improved Decision Making" and how to order a copy, see the Oregon Climate Service Web page at: http://www.ocs.oregonstate.edu/index.html. Click on the "Order Books & Maps" link.

The web link for the OSU China Working Group is: http://oregonstate.edu/international/CWG/index.html

Author: Bob Rost
Source: Christopher Daly, David Hannaway