Red List of Ecosystems

Turpial Development
Feb 9, 2018 · 4 min read

The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), better known as IUCNRLE, is the most complete initiative in the state of conservation of ecosystems worldwide.

Project: IUCN — Red List of Ecosystems
Type of project: Website / Custom CMS / GIS
Delivery of the final result: CMS — June 2016 / GIS — February 2018
Tools: Django 1.8, GeoNode, Mezzanine

In 2014, we were contacted by Provita, a Venezuelan NGO founded in 1987 whose mission is the conservation of the environment in its broadest sense, with emphasis on endangered species and environments, combining several fields of knowledge in the search for integral solutions. They asked us to completely re-create the LRE web page, which was at the time developed in Wordpress. In addition, they asked for the inclusion of new functionalities that would allow it to offer a better management of the geographic information associated with the ecosystems evaluated.

Proposed during the IV World Congress of Conservation in 2008 and recognized by IUCN in 2014, the LRE is responsible for collecting data, statistics and risk assessment of all the ecosystems of the planet, with the goal of evaluating them all before the year 2025.

In order to carry out this task, and due to the limited budget that the client had when starting the project, we resorted to the use of OpenSource solutions that facilitate compliance with the requirements. The project was divided into three phases during its development, alternating 2 developers in each of its phases until the final delivery.

The LRE is responsible for collecting data, statistics and risk assessment of all the ecosystems of the planet

One of the most striking aspects of the project is the information tables, where the aim is to provide the public with summary information regarding the studies and publications carried out worldwide regarding the analysis and preservation of ecosystems. Additionally, within the page, there is a form conceptualized by the client, and it can be used by those who evaluate an ecosystem to document the state in which it is located, following the parameters designed by the LRE.

This form can only be accessed by researchers authorized by the LRE. To obtain a user that allows them to access the form, they must contact the LRE and request it, mentioning the ecosystem to be evaluated, the progress of the research thereof, among other required data. Once they have the user, they begin to fill in the fields within the form, which asks for information such as type of ecosystem, the biogeographic realm to which it belongs (marine, terrestrial, underground or fresh water), etc. They can also upload geographic files to provide a georeferenced visual abstraction of the ecosystem within the system.

New design (left) vs Old design (right)

Once the form is complete, it is sent to the LRE, where it will go through an editorial process in which criteria such as importance of the work, level of information collected and verifiable and consistent information related to the risk assessment of the ecosystem will be evaluated according to the guidelines of the organization. If it meets all the requirements, the study is approved for publication as a study case.

While working on this project, we encountered a difficult problem to solve: because we were working with Provita and they in turn responded directly to IUCN, the waiting times for certain consultations and even for the approval of new steps could be extended even for some months. In addition to this, the ecosystem evaluation form underwent many changes over time, due to the continuous changes in scope and discussions between the people who made up the LRE team worldwide and IUCN.

The frequent meetings with Provita were key, as they help us be much more aware of the whole process that was taking place at the customer’s business level, and also to clarify any doubts. Thus, little by little, the different procedures of the project were designed and developed.

Mezzanine is a highly extensible CMS (content management system) built on Django. As a system it is very flexible, and can be integrated into other Django sites, which worked perfectly for us because Django was our main tool for development.

One of the main challenges at the time of developing the project was finding a way to create a web page that would allow much more information to be included geographically than the previous system could host. We used GeoNode to develop the geospatial information systems (GIS) so that we could host and visualize geographic information.

The page is multilanguage, currently supporting for English, Spanish and French. With these tools and the use of Django, the first scope of the project was delivered in 2015, and a seccond phase with GIS for conservation data in February 2018. We maintain contact with Provita for future projects related to the protection of the environment and we are currently updating the geographic platform of the website.

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