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Spatial Data Structures

  • By: Kristin Stock
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Spatial data structures describe the rules that are used to represent geographic data in geographic information systems (GIS). Geographic data include information about the location, size, and shape of objects or phenomena on or near the surface of Earth, as well as their nonspatial characteristics.

Geographic data in GIS are represented at several different levels of abstraction, each level depending on those beneath it:

Conceptual spatial data models describe how geographic objects (e.g., rivers) or phenomena are represented in GIS.

Logical spatial data models describe how geographic data are represented in a database management system (e.g., as database tables).

Spatial data structures describe the methods and formats for physical storage and processing of geographic information in GIS.

Spatial data structures are the core of a GIS and fundamentally affect its ...

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