Africa

Africa

Lucy E.P. Scott (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Agulhas and Somali Currents Large Marine Ecosystem (ASCLME) Project, Grahamstown, South Africa) and Greg Reed (Australian Ocean Data Center Joint Facility, New South Wales, Australia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-815-9.ch011
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Abstract

The African Marine Atlas, launched in 2007, is an online resource that provides maps, images, data and information that can be used by scientists, students, coastal resource managers, planners and decision makers from institutions and specialized agencies across Africa. The ODINAFRICA Project, funded by the Flanders Government and the IOC/UNESCO, initiated and supported the African Marine Atlas Project from the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende, Belgium. Regional partners were the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Program (ACEP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). A team of 16 marine scientists and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists from National Oceanographic Data Centers (NODCs) in Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania participated in the design and development of the atlas. The African Marine Atlas, which is now a member of the International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN), may be found online at http://www.africanmarineatlas.net.
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Introduction

Africa has rich and varied coastal and marine resources that provide the basis for significant economic and social activities including tourism, oil and gas extraction, fishing, and shipping (UNEP, 2008). The state of existence and availability of data about these resources varies considerably from country to country, with economic, environmental, cultural and political factors all playing an influencing role. At a continental scale, a number of web sites provide access to spatial information about the coastal and marine environment, among those being the United Nations Environment Program’s Geo Data Portal (UNEP, 2009) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Center African Marine Information System (EC, 2009). Prior to 2007 no integrated, multidisciplinary portal of information relevant to marine and coastal management existed for Africa.

The Ocean Data and Information Network for Africa (ODINAFRICA) project was initiated in 2000 and brings together forty (40) marine related institutions from twenty five (25) African Member States of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. ODINAFRICA has assisted African coastal states to establish and operate National Oceanographic Data and Information centers, to develop skills for manipulation of data and preparation of data and information products, and to develop infrastructure for their archivaling, analysis and dissemination.

The national representatives of African oceanographic data and information management institutions recognized that increased access to marine and coastal data was essential for the effective management of the marine and coastal environment in the region. Considerable national-level consultation took place for representatives of the ODINAFRICA Project to identify the most important priorities for their countries to increase access to data and information (IOC, 2003). The promotion of access to spatial information was a common thread of importance around the continent and the need to develop a Pan-African marine atlas was identified as one of the objectives of the third phase of ODINAFRICA,which commenced in 2004.

The Atlas project was initiated in 2006 to synthesize geospatial data products for the African continent (emphasizing especially the marine and coastal environment). The Atlas incorporates existing geo-referenced datasets available in the public domain and also data products created from national and international marine data collections by scientists participating in the ODINAFRICA Project.

The prototype Atlas was launched in February 2007 after nine months of intensive work by a team of 16 marine scientists and GIS experts from National Oceanographic Data Centers (NODCs) in Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania. International partners in this project were the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Program (ACEP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). International ocean data management experts from Belgium, the USA and Australia provided training and advice for data synthesis and analysis.

The Atlas provides maps, images, data and information that can be used by scientists, students, coastal resource managers, planners and decision makers from institutions and specialized agencies across Africa (Scott & Brown, 2009). The African Marine Atlas has been released in two formats. A “clearinghouse” website containing a repository of over 800 downloadable data products derived from the fields of marine geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, geopolitical and the human socio-economic dimensions (http://www.africanmarineatlas.net) has also been developed as a data visualization and dissemination tool where a number of data layers can be viewed.

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