A Multi-scale, Multipurpose GIS Data Model to Add Named Features of the Natural Landscape to Maps

Aileen Buckley, Charlie Frye



There is a certain class of features on maps that are difficult to generate from traditional GIS databases — named features of the natural landscape. Physical features, such as mountain ranges, canyons, ridges and valleys, and named water bodies, such as capes, bays and coves, are often not found in GIS databases. This results in their omission on maps or at best their addition to the map as graphic type that is not georeferenced to the data used to make the map. This paper describes an inherently multi-scale GIS data model for physiographic features, and by extension named water bodies and named islands and island chains and groups, that can be used to create many different types of maps. The semantic model (what features to include), the representation (how to define the geometry of the features and their attributes), and the symbology (the specifications for both type properties and type placement) are discussed. In addition, the sensitivity of the representations and symbology to the software used for mapping are described. These issues are reviewed in hopes that others will be better able to use GIS data and software to make maps that include these features. Cartographers know that without the inclusion of the type for these names on maps, the products created are less informationally — and cartographically— rich. If more GIS databases with these features in them were developed, non-cartographers using GIS software to make their maps, as well as cartographers who have not generally had these data at hand, could produce better products.


cartographic data modeling; indeterminate boundaries; physiographic features; GIS

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