Cartographic Reconstruction of Historical Environmental Change

  • Martin C. Lukas Sustainability Research Center (artec) University of Bremen, Germany
Keywords: historical maps, historical cartography, map reliability, map accuracy, planimetric accuracy, historical environmental change, shoreline reconstruction, coastal sedimentation, Segara Anakan lagoon, Java, Indonesia


Historical maps provide large potential for research into historical environmental change. However, the limited availability and accuracy of early cartographic material restricts the analytical time scale of inquiry and poses methodological challenges. An important consideration in this context is the question: at minimum, how accurate must historical maps be in order to be used for which kind of analysis. This question is addressed here, based on the example of a combined analysis of historical maps and satellite images that aimed at reconstructing shoreline aggradation in the Segara Anakan lagoon on the south coast of Java. I present a practical methodological approach to analyzing historical spatial information which has varying degrees of accuracy. In the example presented, this approach links an accuracy assessment of selected historical maps of the region with a lagoon shoreline change analysis. As indicators for the maps’ analytical suitability and the reliability of results, I propose ratios between environmental change rates and quantitative map accuracy measures, as well as combined uncertainty measures. The empirical example demonstrates that in case of large magnitudes of environmental change an analysis of even fairly inaccurate historical maps can provide results with surprisingly low levels of uncertainty. However, large magnitudes of environmental change can also constrain the analysis of historical maps. Quantitative analyses of the accuracy and the contents of historical maps should be accompanied by a qualitative appraisal taking into account carto-bibliographic information and the various dimensions of map accuracy. The maps of change presented in this paper may support further inquiry into the dynamics and drivers of environmental change in the Segara Anakan lagoon region.

How to Cite
Lukas, M. C. (2014). Cartographic Reconstruction of Historical Environmental Change. Cartographic Perspectives, (78), 5-24.
Peer-Reviewed Articles