Calakmul: support for cultural and natural heritage management
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and Cultural World Heritage site is located at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This 723,185 ha Biosphere Reserve was created in 1989, it is the largest tropical forest reserve in the country. This biodiversity hotspot shelters rare species of flora and fauna, and is considered to be an important part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The 3,000 ha archaeological zone was registered as a Cultural World Heritage site in 2002. It is an outstanding testimony to the exchange of influences over more than twelve centuries (beginning in the fourth century BCE) in terms of political organization and cultural development over a vast area of the Mayan region.
Within recent years, settlement pressure, farming, extraction of commercial timber and tourism, among other issues, have complicated the management of this natural and cultural heritage. The Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) funded the Calakmul 4D Geographic Information System project in order to help the Mexican authorities of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and of the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) to face these challenges and improve management. The project was undertaken within the framework of a collaboration agreement with UNESCO.
The project focused on the development and implementation of a 4D Information Management System for the conservation authorities of the Biosphere Reserve and Archaeological Urban Centre of Calakmul. This online system allows the managers of the natural and cultural protected area to store, share, visualize and create relations between their data, in order to coordinate various conservation, management, planning, monitoring and research activities undertaken in the area. Temporal changes can also be identified; this is the fourth dimension of the 4D system.
Earth Observation data from Formosat 2 and SPOT satellites was used to analyse the evolution of the land use/cover in the area, and to investigate the potential of remote sensing to document Maya ruins and detect evidence of archaeological remains in a tropical forest environment.
The system was officially delivered to the Mexican authorities on 25 May 2010 for implementation. The project will now enter into the training phase to strengthen the capacity of local heritage authorities.