Over at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog Jeremy decided to lay down a challenge to us here at CABI – make it possible to view the changes in distribution over time. We’d like to explain a little more about the history of the maps – we began publishing Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases in 1942 and for the first 50 or so years the distributions were drawn onto the maps by hand. Historically, when a new edition of a map was published the idea was that old editions would be replaced by the new edition and the old edition was discarded – therefore, when we digitised the maps for the first time in April 2006, we also had the job of tracking down the old editions. We have managed to get a number of them (back 10 years or so) but there are older maps out there that we have to locate, clean up and then get digitised. Part of the digitisation process involves extracting the metadata that is locked up in the map, and constructing an abstract to accompany the new electronic version. It takes time… and money.

Now that the maps are digitised, the next stage is to look to do something similar to what has been suggested by Jeremy as well as other developments to make the maps more usable and useful in general – we have been looking at ways of doing this and there is certainly a lot of scope for development with the technology that is out there.

In regard to the suggestion of creating time series animations showing the changing distribution of pests and diseases – it’s a great idea, but note that the maps are not revised on a regular basis but rather only if it has been brought to our attention that a revision is necessary for reasons of change of distribution or taxonomy. They are also pdf files – if anyone knows how to animate a pdf file please let us know!

If we were to make the data more dynamic, what would be a good tool for visualisation – Google Earth, NASA World Wind? Something else? If you have thoughts and suggestions please leave a comment.

We’d also like to announce that over the next few days we are going to make every 100th Map published so far, open access on the website – that way you can all get some idea of how they have changed over the years.

And finally, we’re happy to hear from anyone who has suggestions for improving and developing the maps – please contact

Katherine Cameron – Content Editor (Env. Sci.) & Mapping Coordinator
David Smith – Business Innovations Manager


  1. Luigi on 18th April 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Hello there, I’m Jeremy’s partner over at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog. First of all, congratulations on a marvellous resource. May I ask how you did the digitization of the maps? Was it just a matter of scanning them to an image file or did you enter the data into some kind of GIS? Because if you’ve got the data in shapefiles, say, it shouldn’t be that difficult to animate them. Of course you could then also combine the pest/disease maps with other data, say on crop production or climate. And also mash them up with Google Earth.

  2. David Smith on 19th April 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Hi there Luigi,
    We scanned the maps as image files and converted these into pdfs (on the basis that the pdf is a de facto standard for documents). At the same time, we also constructed an abstract for CAB Abstracts. I’ve put an example at the bottom of this comment.
    It’s not GIS data but it is very rich metadata – a description of the contents of the map. And we are looking at what and how we could do things with that data now that the information does not reside just on the visual representation of the information.
    Thanks for the Shapefile tip – I’ll look into that a bit more.
    CAB Abstracts entry for Odium neolycopersici:
    Oidium neolycopersici
    BA: 20073069788
    TI: Oidium neolycopersici. [Distribution map].
    AA: CABI Head Office, Wallingford, UK.
    AU: (Corporate) CABI ;
    SR: Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases
    YR: 2007
    SS: No.April
    PP: Map 1000 (Edition 1)
    AB: A new distribution map is provided for Oidium
    neolycopersici L. Kiss. Fungi: Ascomycota: Erysiphales.
    Hosts: tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Information is
    given on the geographical distribution in Europe (Bulgaria, Czech
    Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy
    (mainland Italy), Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK
    (England)), Asia (Bhutan, China (Hong Kong), India (Jammu and
    Kashmir, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh), Japan, Malaysia, Nepal,
    Taiwan, Thailand), Africa (Tanzania), North America (Canada
    (Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec), USA (California,
    Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York)), Central
    America and Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Jamaica), South America
    (Argentina, Venezuela).
    IT: Miscellaneous
    LA: English
    PN: CABI
    LP: Wallingford
    CP: UK
    SN: 0012-396X
    CC: FF610; PP700; FF003;
    DE: biogeography; fungal diseases; geographical distribution; IMI
    descriptions; new geographic records; plant diseases; plant
    pathogenic fungi; plant pathogens; tomatoes;
    OD: Ascomycotina; Erysiphales; fungi; Lycopersicon esculentum; Oidium
    GL: Alberta; Argentina; Bhutan; British Columbia; Bulgaria; California; Canada; China; Connecticut; Czech Republic; Denmark; England; Florida; France; Germany; Greece; Guadeloupe; Hong Kong; Hungary; India; Italy; Jamaica; Jammu and Kashmir; Japan; Karnataka; Malaysia; Maryland; Nepal; Netherlands; New Jersey; New York; Ontario; Poland; Quebec; Spain; Switzerland; Taiwan; Tanzania; Thailand; UK; USA; Uttar Pradesh; Venezuela
    ID: Britain; CMI Descriptions; Formosa; Hyphomycetes; Kashmir; Mysore
    ; Oidium neolycopersici; phytopathogens; Tanganyika; United
    Kingdom; United States of America;
    BT: Deuteromycotina; Eumycota; fungi; eukaryotes; Oidium; Ascomycotina ; Lycopersicon; Solanaceae; Solanales; dicotyledons; angiosperms; Spermatophyta; plants; Balkans; Southern Europe; Europe;
    Developed Countries; Central Europe; OECD Countries; Scandinavia; Northern Europe; European Union Countries; Western Europe;
    Mediterranean Region; Benelux; EFTA; British Isles; Commonwealth
    of Nations; Great Britain; UK; South Asia; Asia; Least Developed
    Countries; Developing Countries; East Asia; Central Southern China ; China; India; South East Asia; Threshold Countries; ASEAN
    Countries; East Africa; Africa South of Sahara; Africa; ACP
    Countries; SADC Countries; Anglophone Africa; North America;
    America; Canada; Pacific States of USA; Western States of USA; USA ; New England States of USA; Northeastern States of USA; South
    Atlantic States of USA; Southern States of USA; Gulf States of USA ; Southeastern States of USA; Middle Atlantic States of USA;
    Leeward Islands; Lesser Antilles; Caribbean; French West Indies;
    islands; Greater Antilles; Caribbean Community; South America;
    Latin America; Andean Group

  3. Luigi on 19th April 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks, David. Well if you have images that should be even easier. I’m sure there is software out there that can animate jpgs or whatever. But in general I would think that the way to go is some kind of GIS solution, as that would give you the most flexibility.

  4. Andy Jarvis on 19th April 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m also semi-linked to Luigi and Jeremy, and we’re all pretty interested in this. I do a lot of work on Google Earth visualisation of this kind of data, and could certainly help. If the maps are scanned and in digital form, it might actually be quite easy to put into Google Earth. It depends a little on what the images look like. I’m happy to discuss – if you like email me and copy Luigi and we can see what opportunities are out there. Andy

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