Environmental risk mapping of pollutants: state of the art and communication aspects

J. Lahr, L. Kooistra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Risk maps help risk analysts and scientists to explore the spatial nature of the effects of environmental stressors such as pollutants. The development of Geographic Information Systems over the past few decades has greatly improved spatial representation and analysis of environmental information and data. Maps also constitute a powerful tool to communicate the outcome of complex environmental risk assessment to stakeholders such as the general public and policy makers. With appropriate cartography one can improve communication and thus bridge the gap between experts and users. Appropriate risk communication is pivotal to risk management, decision making and implementation and may prevent unnecessary concern about environmental pollutants. However, at present few risk maps are specifically tailored to meet the demands of such defined uses. This paper presents an overview of the most important types of risk maps that can be distinguished using examples from the scientific literature: contamination maps, exposure maps, hazard maps, vulnerability maps and ‘true’ risk maps. It also discusses, in a general way, the most important issues that need to be addressed when making risk maps for communication purposes: risk perception, target audience, scale and spatial aggregation and visualisation such as use of colours and symbols. Finally, some general rules of thumb are given for making environmental risk maps for communication purposes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3899-3907
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • geographic information-systems
  • heavy-metal contamination
  • ecological risk
  • spatial assessment
  • screening model
  • complex sources
  • gis techniques
  • pollution
  • groundwater
  • vulnerability

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