The role of GIS in improving environmental assessment effectiveness: theory vs. practice

Elsa João, Alexandra Fonseca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of geographic information systems (GIS) to store, integrate,
analyze, and display spatial attributes of socioeconomic and environmental
data has meant that they are increasingly applied to environmental impact
assessments (EIA). According to Antunes et al. (1996: 451) attempts to
employ GIS in EIA have demonstrated that “GIS can have a wide application
in all EIA stages, acting as an integrative framework for the whole process,
from the generation, storage and display of the thematic information relative
to the vulnerability/sensitivity of the affected resources, to impact prediction
and finally for their evaluation for decision support.” However, despite this
acknowledged potential, it is unclear if in practice much of the use of GIS
by EIA practitioners is restricted to map production and report preparation.
If it is the case that GIS are mainly used as sophisticated mapmaking tools,
and the powerful capabilities of data modeling and analysis are disregarded,
then GIS are not being used to their full capacity and surely less complex
(and cheaper) systems could frequently be used instead.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-387
Number of pages17
JournalImpact Assessment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • role of GIS
  • environmental assessment effectiveness
  • theory vs practice

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