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Ecometrica tool will help governments plan sustainable development

Firm collaborates with research scientists to map environmental calamity

Ecometrica, the world-leading sustainability software and data company, has partnered with scientists at Edinburgh Napier and other universities to build an application that will help developing world governments ensure their economic growth is ecologically sustainable.

The application, hosted on the Ecometrica Platform, collates satellite imagery to show the scale of environmental degradation to mangrove forests over time, and is being used to highlight the need for a new model of shrimp farming in the Indian Ocean and plan a more sustainable approach.

An integral part of iCoast, a research project led by Edinburgh Napier University, the publicly available tool allows the changes that have taken place to be tracked on a map. The project has collated satellite imagery of the Kenyan and Sri Lankan coastlines for a variety of dates over the last two decades and starkly illustrates how the Kalpitiya-Puttalam lagoon, part of Sri Lanka’s 1,700km coastline, has experienced rapid conversion of natural habitat to shrimp ponds over the past 20 years.

The conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp ponds has dramatically changed this site within the coastal landscape in Sri Lanka, leaving local communities at greater risk from extreme weather events like flooding and tsunamis which the mangrove belt has traditionally protected them from. Mangroves also provide habitat for marine animals such as crabs, shrimps and juvenile fish, as well as locking in large amounts of carbon.

The data also showed that the shrimp farms are generally abandoned after just a few years because of the incidence of disease in the pools, leaving a scarred landscape that is difficult for natural species to re-colonise.

Karin Viergever, Ecometrica’s head of land use and spatial analysis, and her team helped to build the application alongside iCoast’s academics, using Ecometrica Platform’s Mapping modules. She said: “The application can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and provides clear visual documentation of the damage being wrought by unsustainable farming methods. With data to show what is happening over time, it should now be possible for policymakers to steer development in a more sustainable direction.”

She added: “Our web platform allows similar maps to be built for other areas, and is already being used across a variety of projects.”

As well as mapping changes in the environment of a major wetland site in Sri Lanka since 1992, the iCoast project looked at the potential for climate compatible development (CCD) in the coastal zone and aimed to identify the right policy and regulatory framework to set coastal farming in Kenya and Sri Lanka on a more sustainable path. As part of the iCoast programme, two Sri Lankan professionals came to Scotland to train on Ecometrica’s application, and they have now returned to their native country where they will be demonstrating it to policymakers.

Professor Mark Huxham of Edinburgh Napier University, one of the leaders of the iCoast project, said: “Our study highlights the need for integrated planning in coastal areas, particularly in mangrove forests which are of huge importance for their ability to protect the coast and their tremendous ability to capture and store carbon.

“In Sri Lanka’s Puttalam Lagoon, one of the areas studied, shrimp farming increased by 2,777 per cent between 1992 and 2012, with mangroves declining by 34 per cent. But by the end of the period, most of the shrimp farms had been abandoned. None of this is sustainable, and there is now a pressing need to rehabilitate the abandoned ponds.

“There remain significant challenges in developing the right fiscal and regulatory frameworks required to deliver the incentives and governance conditions necessary for coastal zone CCD to occur through these emerging Payment for Ecosystem Services markets. Data from earth observation and mapping have huge potential to positively inform regulatory decisions, and technology such as the Ecometrica Mapping platform make applications usable and accessible to local stakeholders and policy makers.”

The iCoast project was funded by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and carried out by Edinburgh Napier University, LTS International, University of Birmingham in the UK, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), and Ruhuna University in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with Ecometrica. All satellite data was donated to the project by Planet Action. The application is available on


Attached ‘Puttalam 17 Nov 2007.jpg’ picture caption:

Zoomed excerpt of image taken by SPOT satellite on 17 November 2007. The angular shapes are used (dark coloured, showing the presence of water) and disused (bright coloured) shrimp ponds. The large light blue-coloured patch towards the bottom of the picture represents salt pans while on the opposite side of the pond, the light red patch shows a coconut plantation. Dark red patches close to the water around the bay and on the islands indicate the presence of mangrove vegetation. © CNES 2007, Distribution Spot Image S.A., France, all rights reserved.

Vegetation is shown in red, as the satellite acquires near-infrared wavelengths additional to colour wavelengths. Since healthy vegetation reflects a lot of near infrared, this information can be used to monitor vegetation health. Showing near infrared reflectance in red makes healthy vegetation appear red.

Distributed by The Communications Business on behalf of Ecometrica.

For further information, please contact Denise Hannestad, The Communications Business on behalf of Ecometrica. Tel +44 (0) 131 208 1500 or

Editors Notes

About Ecometrica

Ecometrica is a leading sustainability software and data company with offices in the UK, USA and Canada. We provide sustainability, mapping and reporting software to governments, NGOs and some of the world’s biggest and most complex multi-national businesses. The Ecometrica platform brings together innovative sustainability software and a team of recognised experts in sustainability data and reporting

Ecometrica is one of the most recognised sustainability management brands in the world, as voted by the Global 500. In 2013 and 2014 global surveys of senior environment, health and safety (EH&S) and sustainability decision makers, conducted by the analyst firm, Verdantix, Ecometrica was ranked as a leading brand for both EH&S and Sustainability Management Services, alongside companies like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP.

Following an independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ecometrica became the first sustainability management company to secure assurance of audit readiness in line with the International Standard on Assurance Engagements 3000, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ Code of Ethics, for the Ecometrica platform.