Spatial Relationships - extracting information from a map

Relationships are important to us, they help us understand situations and to make decisions. A relationship between geographic features based on location is called a spatial relationship. Spatial relationships are some of the most important aspects of mapping. For example, from a map it is possible to can see:

  • which geographic features connect to each other…e.g. Watling Street connects to Watford Road
  • which geographic features are contained within an area…e.g. a plot of land is contained within the Green Belt
  • which geographic features intersect…e.g. the river intersects the road
  • the relative position of geographic features…e.g. the Court House is 7 miles east of the prison

However, to gain more use from a map the reader must be able to interpret relationships and derive information from the position of geographical features. For example:

  • route finding between suppliers and their customers
  • identifying areas suitable for a new school that cannot be located near railways, major roads or motorways
  • planning a route for a walk on fairly flat terrain, taking in a lake, a nature reserve and a pub for lunch

It is the interpretation of mapping information that a GIS is most helpful for. As suggested, decision making often involves the need to identify locations and by using the tools within the system work can now be done more quickly, easily and reliably.