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Vector Analysis

1.0 Overview
Analysis is often considered to be "the heart" of GIS. Through
analysis new information is gained. As a GIS stores both attribute and spatial data,
analysis can be conducted on both types of data however, it is the spatial analysis
capability that sets GIS apart from database applications.
There are a great many GIS analyses that can be conducted. For convenience sake we
often group the analyses into categories. For the purpose of this course I have
decided to create a bit of a hierarchy. This is done to reflect your lab experiences
using GIS. Our first encounter with GIS analyses is with vector data. Later we will
(hopefully) move into analysis of raster data. The focus of this module is vector
data. The breakout of vector analysis is as follows:
Attribute Query - Select by Attribute
Arithmetic Calculation
Statistical Summary
Relating Tables
Spatial Join
Spatial Query - Select by Location
Spatial Calculation
Spatial Join
Network Analysis
There are many operations that can be conducted on the attribute database (the data
tables). These can be divided into 4 categories: query (or logical), arithmetic,
statistical and reclass operations. I included a short note about relating tables as it
enhances our analytical capabilities. There is also the spatial join function, which
straddles attribute and spatial analysis.
2.1 Queries = Select by Attributes
Queries include both comparison (=, >, <, >=, <=, <>) and Boolean (AND, OR and NOT)
operators (for a simple but effective visual, check-out the Boolean Machine). These
operators are used to perform queries.

Example 1: a simple comparison query,

Forest_Age >= 250 (years)
would query for a subset of forest polygons that could be considered old
Note the query has 3 parts: field name, operator and value.
Example 2: in Pacific Northwest critical deer winter range has old growth
Douglas-fir trees. The query has two criteria and would look like,
Forest_Age >= 250 AND Fir% >= 50.
This second query operates on two attribute fields and is more specific
(restrictive) than the first it would yield a smaller subset of polygons
as both conditions would have to be met.
Example 3: if deer simply liked old growth and/or Douglas-fir (a fictitious
example), then the query would be
Forest_Age >= 250 OR Fir% >= 50.
This query is more inclusive as a stand can be either old OR composed of
2.2 Arithmetic
Arithmetic operators perform simple mathematical functions on values in the
attribute database; operators include:
n (raised to the power of)

These operators can be utilized to to calculate values to be placed in a new field:
convert square metres (m2) to hectares (ha) [e.g. divide by 10,000] - results would
be placed in a new field in the table
convert driving distance to driving time [ e.g. divide by average driving speed] results would be placed in a new field in the table
determine total volume (m3) [e.g. multiply area (ha) by inventory volume (m3/ha)] again results would be placed in a new field in the table
2.3 Statistics
Statistical operations can also be performed on the attribute data. There are 2

options available when you right-click on a field name: 'statistics' and 'summarize'.
'Statistics' provides a temporary pop-up table with the typical parameters:
standard deviation
Plus the data are plotted in a histogram (frequency distribution).
'Summarize' creates a an output data table. Statistics are based on unique values in a
chosen field. selected fields from these operations are placed in a summary table. In
the example below, the field Group was chosen and the statistics count, sum and
mean were calculated.
Data Table


Summary Table



2.4 Reclassification
Reclassification is another operation that can be conducted on attribute
data. Reclassification results in a generalization (i.e. a simplification) of the
original data set. For instance, raw property values in a data set can be put in 3
classes: lower, middle, and upper class. We typically use the legend editor (in ArcGIS
the Symbology tab of the Layer Properties dialog box) to classify the data - altering
the legend is temporary and we can change the colouring at anytime. (If we want a
"permanent reclassification", e.g. a new map, then we would use Merge / Dissolve this is described in section 3.5 below).
2.5 Table Relations
Relating tables to each other involves joining or linking records between two tables.
This may not be considered an operation, but it does allow us to relate outside
source data to our themes to allow the features in our themes to be analyzed based
on outside data. Refer to the database lecture notes.
2.6 Spatial Join
As with relating tables, a spatial join will relate records between two tables. But the

records are not joined based on a common attribute value (usually ID);
instead records are joined based on common location (as defined by the
coordinates of the spatial features). This type of operation is a combination of spatial
and attribute; it is described in more detail in section 3.2 below.


The spatial characteristics of map features (points, lines, polygons) can also be
analyzed. Location, size and shape of the map features, as defined by their
coordinates, are basis for these operations. Spatial operations can be categorized as
3.1 Spatial Query - Select by Location
This is where features in one theme are selected based on their spatial relation
(connectivity, containment, intersection, or nearness) to features in a second theme
(i.e. select forest stands that contain an eagles nest); new data is not created, just a
set of features are selected. A few examples:
intersect share geographic space (roads that cross creeks)
within a distance of as the name implies, select features within the buffer area
(wildlife trees within 20m of river)
contain feature has to be within (e.g. select forest stands that contain wildlife
3.2 Spatial Calculations
Simple spatial calculations determine areas, perimeters, and distances based on
the coordinates (in ArcView these are accessed through the shape field as it contains
the vertices); the calculations utilize the coordinates that define the features, but
the results are stored in the database table (so this operation also straddles both
attribute and geometric).
3.3 Spatial Join
As previously stated, this operation is a mix of spatial and attribute operations.
The end result is a join of two database tables, but the basis for the join is
coincident space. As with a regular join the relation has to be one-to-one or
many-to-one between records in the destination-to-source tables. As an example
we could have two themes: Cities andCountries of the world. A spatial join could be
done for cities as the destination theme, as it yields a many-to-one relation (many
cities to one country). A spatial join would thus bring data from the Countries theme
to the Cities theme. A spatial join could not be done with Countries as the
destination table as the relation would be one-to-many.

3.4 Overlays bringing together two themes the line work of the two themes are
combined (lines are broken, new nodes and links/arcs are recognized, topology is redone, note that
sliver polygons may have to be eliminated) and the fields from both theme databases are
combined into one new database. Three common types of overlays:
Union is a complete merging of two themes where the new theme is composed of
the entire map area of both themes and all the fields from both theme data

Intersect is a merging of two themes but only where they share space such that
the map area of the new theme is the area that was in common for both themes
and the attribute database is composed of all the fields from both theme data

Clip is akin to pressing a cookie cutter onto a theme such that the new theme is a
miniature version of the first (a mini-me), the map area is defined by the overlay
(cookie cutter) theme and the database comes only from the input (cookie
dough) theme.

Update - features from the 'update layer' descend upon the input theme and
replace whatever was underneath. An example would be updating a timber type
map (input layer) with a cut block (update layer) where the cut block shape
supersedes the timber types it overlaps.
Erase - the polygons from the 'erase layer' descend upon the input theme and
eliminate that area. An example would be if land were expropriated from a
woodlot owner to create a park. The 'park area' would be erased from the woodlot

3.5 Buffers
Buffering creates a new theme with new polygon features (geometric objects) based
on a constant measure from features in a source theme; buffers around points are
circles, around lines are corridors (snake-like with rounded ends) and around
polygons are donuts; buffers can be created based on:
a single set width (i.e. all features by 50m)
multiple widths where more than one buffer is created around each feature (i.e. a
50 and a 150m buffer created around each feature gives a bulls eye effect)
varying width based on an attribute field (i.e. width for each feature is stored in
the data table, buffer width depends on the value in this field)

other factors include:

dissolve boundaries between overlapping buffers
buffer outside / inside / both

3.6 Dissolve
With dissolve, also known as merge polygons, boundaries between adjacent polygons
with the same attribute value (i.e. class = poor) are dissolved and the two (or more)
polygons are merged into one larger polygon; a new map layer (theme) results with
the generalized data. This is the spatial equivalent to reclassification of attribute

3.7 Network Routing as the name implies, this type of analysis assesses movement
through a network. Consider the difference between the shortest route and the
fastest route. During the middle of the night the shortest route is likely the fastest
route, however, during rush hour I would consider traffic and use the fastest route
(which may have a longer distance). The network is modeled using lines (arcs) and
intersections (nodes). Arc-node topology provides information regarding
connectivity. The attribute database would provide additional information regarding
impedance to flow (or movement). Examples would include speed limit and traffic
loads at different times of the day. There is a cost to making turns at intersections
i.e. you have to slow down rather than use just two wheels to make the turn. Oneway streets would provide for an absolute barrier. As well, making a turn off of an
overpass onto a highway below would be prohibited. Other routing examples include
most efficient route (for making several stops or deliveries) and location-allocation
(where school catchment areas can be determined based on road network and not
just a straight-line distance).
Quickest route to Vegas!
Shortest route to Vegas!
Note the difference between the two routes.
3.8 Summary
The results of these spatial operations take on different forms: item 3.1 is a spatial
query and merely results in a selection of map features that meet the spatial
criteria/relation, items 3.2 and 3.3 result in additions/changes to the database
tables, items 3.4 - 3.6 generally result in a new theme with line work and a data table
based on the spatial operation, and . Item 3.7 (networks) usually result in a selection
of lines within the network that represent the best route.