KREMS, Austria, Oct. 25, 2023 — ecolo-zip, a globally unique database offering intricate details on terrain formations, vegetation, and climate conditions across 1.5 million locations in 94 countries and regions, has been successfully developed and released.
For the very first time, scientific researchers, alongside social and political entities, now have access to a repository of data that intricately describes the biogeophysical surroundings of human existence with unparalleled spatial precision.
This treasure trove of information is crucial for delving into the impacts of spatial environments on human behavior, mental states, and even political choices. The database was crafted using two sets of global satellite data, a task undertaken by the Department of Psychology and Psychodynamics at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences (KL Krems).
Humans are profoundly influenced by their biological, geographical, and physical environments, referred to collectively as the biogeophysical surroundings. This phenomenon has been the subject of extensive research across various scientific fields.
There is now compelling evidence suggesting that the topography of a person’s environment can shape their mental and emotional states, personality, and influence patterns in trade, settlement, and even the emergence and persistence of civil conflicts. Vegetation and climate are also powerful factors affecting human life.
Investigating these interactions necessitates access to precise, high-resolution, and comprehensive data on the biogeophysical aspects of our world – a need that has, until now, been met inadequately. With the introduction of ecolo-zip, the researchers at KL Krems have addressed this gap, providing a data resource that surpasses any previously available in terms of comprehensiveness and detail.
“ecolo-zip is the first database with detailed topological and environmental data for more than 1.5 million postal codes in 94 countries and regions, ” noted Dr. David Willinger, researcher at the Division of Psychological Methodology, KL Krems. “To create it, we processed 220 million individual pieces of data. This has made ecolo-zip an incredibly rich and high-resolution description of the human ecosphere – and we’re excited to make it available without restriction.”
Indeed, Dr. Willinger, Prof. Stefan Stieger (Head of the Division), and their colleague Dr. Friedrich M. Götz from the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, employed datasets from two distinct sources to construct the new database: the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER).
The SRTM data was instrumental in populating the database with detailed information about the Earth’s surface relief at a granular resolution of 3 arcseconds, equivalent to 90 meters. Meanwhile, the ASTER data enriched ecolo-zip by adding layers of data pertaining to vegetation and climate conditions.
Navigating The Data
The third data set integrated into ecolo-zip was 1.5 million postal codes with their corresponding geodetic data (i.e. coordinates in longitude and latitude). These were taken from the publicly available geonames.com database. Using a computer model developed by the three authors themselves, all data were then related to each other.
In total, ecolo-zip now includes for the mentioned 1.5 million locations the most accurate information on location coordinates, average elevation above sea level, density of vegetation cover and average surface temperature of the land (and their standard deviation during the ASTER data collection in 2000-2008) as well as the ratio of land to water at the respective location.
Dr. Willinger stated: “Wherever we humans go, we inevitably interact with our environment. All our personal, social and cultural behavior takes place against this background. Data like ecolo-zip now makes available are therefore of central importance to better understand these interactions. We and KL Krems therefore invite scientists from all disciplines to use ecolo-zip free of charge and without restriction.”
The research team has made the database available immediately at https://doi.org./10.17605/osf.io/wcjad.
Source: KL Krems