Environmental Sensitivity Mapping


Sensitivity maps are a way of presenting spatial data on the sensitivity of assets to any given pressure, such as the sensitivity of natural assets (e.g. mangroves) to oil spills. Assets that are considered vulnerable are those that are sensitive and exposed to a given pressure, with a low ability to adjust or adapt. Many mapping approaches incorporate elements of vulnerability, but are still commonly referred to as sensitivity maps.

UNEP-WCMC 2018 1


Sensitivity mapping provides a visual representation of risks, and assets which may be exposed to them. Multiple environmental sensitivity mapping approaches exist, with methods and uses varying based on stakeholders’ values, drivers of change, data availability, and the technical capacity of the users. Sensitivity mapping is often carried out using geographic information systems (GIS) technology. The amount and/or type of data used to produce a sensitivity map will affect and limit its potential uses. Nevertheless, environmental sensitivity mapping can have a wide variety of applications. These include but are not limited to:

  • Helping decision-makers understand where protection of valuable environmental assets is needed, which could aid the development of protected area networks;
  • Informing governmental and private sector spatial planning at the project level, targeting activities to the locations where they will have the lowest impact;
  • Supporting all stages of impact management, including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, operations, relief, recovery and integration of lessons learned;
  • Aiding situational awareness and response strategy development for responders and decision makers during an incident.

References & Websites