Enabling a shared information infrastructure for Mediterranean and Black Sea basins

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Purpose and scope of creating a shared information infrastructure for PEGASO

The main goal of PEGASO is to construct an ICZM governance platform as a bridge between scientist and end-user communities, going far beyond a conventional bridging. The ICZM Platform will be supported by the development of a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and the set of sustainability assessment tools required for making multi-scale integrated assessments in the coastal zone by supporting and creating local geonodes in order to deliver a Mediterranean and Black Sea harmonised sets of data accessible through an Internet viewer.

Implementing a Spatial Data Infrastructure, following the INSPIRE Directive, will allow to use spatial data, generated within the project as well as external, through an interactive viewer, and further to make it available to the ICZM Platform. One of the major challenges of the project is to share the results’ with all the stakeholders and beyond (link to SDI brochure english-french).


What is an SDI?

A Spatial Data Infrastructure is a group of technologies, politics, standards, services and human resources, necessary for the compilation, manipulation, access, distribution and use of geographic data in different levels.

  • A SDI is a basis for the discovering of spatial data, its evaluation and its use by different kinds of users, either from public, or business, or academic, government or citizens sector. Conceptually, the data infrastructure have the same purpose as the roads and highways: Improving the communications, making access easier, etc.
  • A good road network infrastructure provides a better accessibility; this brings a better communication between regions and, therefore, an increase of commerce. This is, nevertheless, the SDI's purpose: Making the access and use of geographic information easier, and promoting its commerce.

In consequence, following Masser (2005) [1] and GSDI (2004) [2], we can give a more complete definition of what SDIs are:
“A spatial data infrastructure supports ready access to geographic information. This is achieved through the co-ordinated actions of nations and organizations that promote awareness and implementation of complementary policies, common standards and effective mechanisms for the development and availability of interoperable digital geographic data and technologies to support decision making at all scales for multiple purposes. These actions encompass the policies, organizational remits, data, technologies, standards, delivery mechanisms, and financial and human resources necessary to ensure that those working at the national and regional scale are not impeded in meeting their objectives”.

Importance of building an SDI

A key objective of PEGASO is to set up a good SDI, where all data and indicators from PEGASO participants can be shared, using the different services which will be offered through its SDI developments. In this sense, the availability and easy access to a wide range of data on the oceans and coastal zones is one of the key aspects to support strategic decision-making regarding ICZM and maritime policies (e.g. EU ICZM, EU Integrated Maritime Policy, EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Barcelona convention, ICZM protocol for the Mediterranean, Bucharest convention,…). There is a vast quantity of data available from many sources (see further below for the Mediterranean and Black Seas) but gathering them for particular applications takes considerable effort. The establishment of appropriate coastal and marine data and information infrastructures is of highest importance. The SDI is a practical tool, accessible via Internet, that acts as a central repository for geographical information and allows for a better understanding of coastal features and options. It increases effectiveness for planning and managing a coastal area towards Integrated Coastal Zone Management by allowing the examination of competing interests in demand for a coastal space and its overlapping capacities.

Spatial Data Infrastructures aim to realize this last instrument by integrating existing, but fragmented initiatives in order to facilitate access to primary data for users, either from public, or business, or academic, government or citizens sector ('the need for datasharing')

Objectives of a SDI

The overall objective of an SDI is to maximize the reuse of geospatial data and information.

  • SDIs cannot be realized without coordination (especially by governments).
  • SDIs must be user driven, supporting decision-making for many different purposes.
  • SDIs implementation involves a wide range of activities, including not only technical topics such as data, standards, interoperability, and delivery mechanisms, but also institutional arrangements, policies, financial and human resources.

The term infrastructure is used to promote the idea of a reliable and supporting environment, analogous to a road or a telecommunication network, facilitating the access to geoinformation by using a minimum set of common practices, protocols, and specifications (GSDI, 2004[2]). This allows the movement of spatial information instead of goods.

Encompass the sources, systems, network linkages, standards and institutional issues involved in delivering spatially-related information from many different sources to the widest possible group of potential users.


Other initiatives based on SDIs

The need of data sharing has enforced the initiatives based on the construction of Coastal and Marine SDI for storage, manage and share geospatial data. As a result, nowadays a wide network of existing SDI which incorporate different databases, ranging from the local to the national make more effective the use of geospatial data for the wide public. Some of these initiatives are:

Building PEGASO SDI

PEGASO will construct a network of local SDI connected to a central geonode (PEGASO central SDI) to support data sharing processes and easy Internet access to data. The central SDI will be based on existing SDIs from project participants, such as SEXTANT from IFREMER, African Marine Atlas of ODINAFRICA network at IODE Project Office (IOC- UNESCO) and EMODNET and it will be included in the ICAN as part of coastal atlases.

The final aim of PEGASO SDI is the easy manipulation by all users and the downloading of relevant data for more detailed local analysis; therefore special effort has been dedicated in the Project to support SDI and geonode construction amongst the participants and its proper connection to the central SDI. The setting up of PEGASO SDI aggregating national portals and regional organizations portal with information on the Mediterranean and Black Sea coast becomes a powerful tool allowing governments, companies and citizens to easily find, understand and re-use coastal data for information, evaluation and decision making and finally to support the ICZM Platform.

Some of the benefits of a SDI for coastal management:

  • It offers a mean to discover, visualize, and evaluate the existing coastal information for different purposes, and finally provide access to the raw data to coastal managers and stakeholders.
  • The network of local geonodes integrated through standard services to assure interoperability will significantly enlarge the capacity to access geographical information available.
  • It provides better coordination across organizations, joining together land and sea management bodies and reducing the costs of delivery.
  • It allows managers and decision makers to create and evaluate different policy scenarios for coastal zone management by examining the effects of different coastal activities in relation to policy targets.
  • In certain circumstances, it can help visualize the consequences of different management approaches on coastal processes such as erosion, floods or other associated risks.

PEGASO SDI Components

From the technical side PEGASO SDI has two key components, the geoportal and the network of geonodes; these components are interconnected to support access to spatial data among partners.

The Geoportal is a web application offered by an organization which offers a standard access to its own geoinformation by means of a viewer and also to other geoinformation available from the network of web map Servers to which the SDI allows to connect (It can include a Catalogue of metadata related to its own geodata). Thus the geoportal is the key element that provides access to information and data exchange from institutions. The geoportal, as the visual interface through the SDI network, can assemble a large dataset of coastal and marine environmental aspects with socio-economic information from different sectors (towns, shipping, tourism, urbanization, aquaculture, industry, etc) for display and analysis into a common map. Some functions are:

  • to offer a Web Client the possibility to visualize and download geodata
  • to allow access to other external geodata
  • to allow metadata creation and storage in local catalogues or in the PEGASO Catalogue;

A geonode is a local SDI developed in any partner institution through open software and connected with the central SDI. It allows easy access to data through a web portal, which contains the geoportal, and will also help in managing communication and dissemination of results amongst partners and the Shared ICZM platform components. Every provider of geoinformation has to be considered as a “node” within the network of web map Servers which form a particular SDI. PEGASO will support harmonization of data and metadata, which are the key to build assessment tools (WP4) and to support the regional assessment (WP5). Some functions are:

  • Geonodes offer accessibility to individual organizations’ data and metadata (WMS, WCS, WFS Services).
  • It allows access to more than one data catalogue through the same geoportal.
  • It enhances data sharing among scientific and stakeholders.


Figure 2. Technical components of PEGASO SDI


In the process of building a shared that allows the provision of access to spatial data through spatial data services the process of developing a common set of data product specifications to represent and combine is known as harmonization. Thus, data harmonization is the process of comparing similar conceptual and logical data models to determine the common data elements, similar data elements and dissimilar data elements in order to produce a resulting unified data model. This process is a key for sharing data from different resources and at variable scale through a SDI. In this lines, metadata (data about data) need to be created as describes the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of a data set and thus is crucial for geospatial data development process.
- Link to Guidelines for connecting geonodes

Apart from the technical components of the PEGASO SDI, the SDI is made of three components: the Catalogue, the Map Viewer and the Atlas, that guarantees and facilitates the access to data and information, and thus enhances the ICZM approach.


Figure 3. Components of the PEGASO SDI to support ICZM in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea


The Catalogue
The Catalogue is a mechanism for storing and accessing descriptive metadata and allows users to query for data items based on desired attribute catalogue service that stores descriptive information (metadata) about logical data items, as well as the services (WMS, WCS,WFS). Through the PEGASO catalogue, the users (technical, coastal managers, decision makers) could access the repository of data of PEGASO SDI Catalogue which contains products produced within PEGASO project and other services form other providers (ESA, EEA, VLIZ,). Further through the users can search for available data, preview it and download it.

The PEGASO Map viewer
The PEGASO mapviewer is a web interface that allows the visualisation of interoperable data stored on the main catalogue and on partners geonodes connected to the central SDI. Thus, the viewer can show a whole range of spatial information, from the basic information that is present now, such as the data of Natura 2000, Corine Land Cover data, Elevation Model, Boundary layers, to the specific tools and indicators created within PEGASO projects (LEAC, Indicators, CIV). Therefore, the PEGASO viewer is an indispensable platform of data shared, that enhance the decision making process based on knowledge and spatial data information and thus, which support integrated coastal management.

  • It is a core piece of the SDI, as intuitive as easy to use, it gives access to the spatial information, the legend behind and the attributes of the information visualised through the information query tool.
  • Tools, such as pan, zoom in, zoom out, previous navigation, next navigation, full extend, print map, and are available for each screen visualisation enhancing the understanding of each snapshot.
  • Background layers, like google satellite, help the visibility of the map with a high resolution.
  • Additional tools are the “Search Places”, that allows to find any place on the viewer through typing the name; thus, under the “Load Layers” tools any spatial layer can be input and load from the catalogue, therefore it can access the information of the catalogue.

The SDI Map Viewer is a practical tool, accessible via Internet, that acts as a central repository for geographical information and allows for a better understanding of coastal features and options. It increases effectiveness for planning and managing a coastal area towards Integrated Coastal Zone Management by allowing the examination of competing interests in demand for a coastal space and its overlapping capacities.

The Atlas
The Atlas is the third component of PEGASO SDI (under construction) and one of the main deliverables of PEGASO project. The Atlas is a dynamic online tool to engage stakeholders in coastal management. The PEGASO Atlas will consolidates essential data onto a state of the art mapping and visualization platform that allows end users to visualize, query, map, and analyze coastal data and PEGASO products. By placing these resources directly in the hands of regional ocean stakeholders, PEGASO Atlas will supports collaborative decision making and robust regional and local coastal management and planning. The Atlas for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea could be used to show products of PEGASO WPs as for example the results of the ICZM stock taking (WP2), the Indicators factsheets, IRA products and other relevant outcomes related to the work made in PEGASO and to the results to be shown in the viewer.

  • It will act as a repository of relevant documents, in different formats, accessible through the PEGASO SDI.
  • It will enhance the comprehension of tools and spatial information loaded on the viewer, it will support decision making process and it will act as a window for PEGASO outcomes.
  • The Atlas could be used to illustrate the potential problem of representing and visualize originally non-spatial information for end-users and coastal managers.
  • The Atlas for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea will contain predefined maps of main findings for both basins, with the interpretation of the results among other reports.
  • It will follow other international initiatives in the field such as ICAN

Building capacity

The construction of the SDI involves a collaborative process, to define common objectives, targets and actions. It is therefore crucial to complete a common Capacity building and training activities to achieve this common view within the network of partner institutions.

This Capacity Building within PEGASO SDI has consisted on a set of activities:

  • An e-learning course based on moodle platform for geonodes development capacitation (handbook).
  • A 'hands-on' training session organised by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ, Marine & Coastal Research & Management in Flanders), the University Pablo de Olavide (UPO) and the University Autonoma of Barcelona (UAB) (agenda).
  • A video tutorial on how to use the mapviewer
  • Guidelines on how to use the catalogue and the PEGASO SDI (link PEGASO viewer workshop).

Other concepts related to construction and exploitation of a SDI


References

Malvárez, G. C.; Pintado, E. G.; Navas, F.; Lescrauwaet, A. K., 2011. Spatial Data Infrastructures as a critical tool for ICZM in the Mediterranean basin. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on the Mediterranean Coastal Environment: MEDCOAST. Erdal Ozhän (ed.), Rhodes (Greece).ISBN: 978-605-88990-6-3,Vol. 1, págs. 179-189.
  1. Masser I. (2005) The Future of Spatial Data Infrastructures, ISPRS Workshop on Service and Application of Spatial Data Infrastructure, Oct.14-16, Hangzhou, China, 9p. http://www.commission4.isprs.org/workshop_hangzhou/papers/716%20Ian%20Masser-A001.pdf
  2. 2.0 2.1 GSDI, 2004. Spatial Data Infrastructure Cookbook v. 2.0. Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association, viewed on 16 December 2004, http://www.gsdi.org/gsdicookbookindex.asp


The author of this article is UPO team
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.