Building Online Web-Mapping Services to Create Accessible, Dynamic, and Modifiable Visualizations of Past Climate-Driven Species Range Dynamics

Authors: Anna George*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Sydney Widell, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Simon Goring, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Robert Roth, University of Wisconsin - Madison, John Williams, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Cartography, Biogeography
Keywords: interactive maps; science communication; quaternary
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Animated maps of taxa distributions since the last deglaciation offer primary evidence of how species adapt to climate change through shifts in range and abundance. These visualizations are accessible to a broad range of audiences, for they are useful to experts for quick-look insights into past patterns and processes and to educators and science communicators for sharing knowledge about climate impacts and adaptation. However, existing animations such as Pollen Viewer were not easy to update, and the underlying software is no longer compliant with internet security standards. Here, we develop and present a new series of online animated visualizations of taxon range shifts since the last glacial maximum and the associated workflows, using data from the Neotoma Paleoecology Database and Carto VL, a Javascript library that interacts with Carto APIs to build maps and animations. Using the Neotoma Paleoecology Database’s R package, we downloaded and temporally interpolated pollen records from 21,000 years ago to present. Then, we used Carto VL’s formatting tools to build the animations, define parameters, and set styling, with demonstration maps built for North America, Europe, and Australia. All workflows are publicly available on GitHub so that other interested users can extend this approach to other regions, times, and taxa. The underlying data tables are asynchronously coupled to Neotoma Paleoecology Database, so require occasional updating. The completed visualizations support user interaction and clearly illustrate major shifts in taxa distribution, driven by changes in climate over the last 21,000 years.

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