Marine Protected Areas and Spatial Planning
(8/15/2019 12:00:00 AM)
and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are critical to effective development
and operation of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and Marine Spatial Plans (MSP).
Many nations have established MPAs and conduct spatial planning for optimal
management of marine resources. The MARXAN set of tools has been used in many
regions of the world in support of MSP. Part of the MSP process includes Gap
Analysis: a systematic assessment of what’s not being protected that relies
heavily on GIS. The European Union and United States has established specific
protocols and requirements for MSP. Web mapping tools are increasingly used in
both the establishment of MPAs and MSPs as well as for conservation planning
and management in general.
Marine Protected Areas
The process of
establishing and maintaining Marine Protected Areas (MPA) has been adopted
around the globe with 3% of all oceans now protected
(http://www.mpatlas.org/map/mpas/). A growing number of geospatial tools and
body of data benefit creation and management of MPAs as well as contribute to
establishment of new protected areas. The Marine Conservation Institute
provides a status summary for MPAs in an interactive, online map with
complementary data download resources at http://www.mpatlas.org/map/mpas/. Tools such as
this can be applied to not only understanding of MPAs at a global scale, but
with targeted data, web maps can be setup to help monitor and manage individual
MPAs. The United States maintains an interactive map of “de facto” MPAs --
areas protected for reasons other than conservation such as economic use, human
health/safety, protection of government or private property or national
The process of setting up a Marine
Protected Area includes assessing the myriad uses and where these occur.
Geographic Information Systems are used in quantifying uses off the coast of
California in the California Uses interactive web map at
http://marineprotectedareas.noaa.gov/dataanalysis/atlas_ca/viewer/. Data were
collected and tied to a detailed grid for use in the web map. The web map
allows managers to get a list of uses in any grid cell such as sailing,
fishing, and commercial fishing. Grid cells are color coded by use so that
areas of high use are immediately identifiable. If well-maintained with current
information, a site like this is a great planning and management tool.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration catalogued GIS-based
decision support tools for MPAs including coastal protection:
Marine Spatial Planning
recognizes the importance of location for a variety of activities and
resources. Documenting areas of potential use-conflict is a key component in
any Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and not only helps avoid conflict but also
can improve a region’s economy and environment through location intelligence.
The three-dimensional nature of marine environments adds complexity to planning
efforts; geographic data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) used to
manipulate, analyze and display the data have become essential to MSP.
around the world have recognized the importance of marine spatial planning
(Figure 7). The European Union and the United States have each developed
standard procedures and approaches for conducting marine spatial planning.
Figure 7. Core
justifications for Marine Spatial Planning adopted by the European Union.
MARXAN is a commonly
used set of geospatial software that aids in the creation of MSPs. Developed in
Australia in 2000, MARXAN has been applied in regions around the world
including terrestrial. Within a modeling framework that imposes real-world
limitations on the number and size of areas that can be conserved, MARXAN
considers multiple potential areas and sites based on attributes and spatial
configurations and determines optimal combinations for maximal conservation.
The modeling is designed to be iterative with multiple adjustments to inputs
deriving several optimal solutions for decision makers to consider. An example
raw output from a MARXAN model is shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8. MARXAN
output showing optimal zonation and area uses.
Gap Analysis is
part of both the planning for resource use and the subsequent management of
resources. In essence, Gap Analysis is the process of comparing current
conditions with desired future conditions. The analysis is often used to
identify what and where resources are not being managed but should be. GIS is a
key tool in Gap Analysis.
helps answer questions such as....
are the biodiversity conservation areas and who manages them?
much of a specific plant community or animal species’ habitat is held by each
type of management organization?
much of a species’ habitat is in protected areas?
areas host the most species?
A Gap Analysis
may also assess and map environmental sensitivity to a variety of threats. In
the U.S., for example, shorelines are indexed for sensitivity to oil spills.
This aids in the planning process and plays an important part in response to
of a Marine Protected Area or a Marine Spatial Plan usually involves a Gap
Analysis to determine how future management should be performed. The U.S.
Geological Survey has developed several web maps to support Gap Analysis https://gapanalysis.usgs.gov/viewers/. The online map
viewers include land cover, designated protected areas and species
distributions. These tools are used in Gap Analysis and contribute to
development of protected areas and spatial plans.
GIS is used in
planning, managing and communicating. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses a
variety of web maps to inform both the public and managers about the locations
of different natural resources and threats to them that may impact the
environment or economy. The Geospatial Fisheries Information or GeoFin is a set
of web tools designed to aid in fish conservation planning (https://ecos.fws.gov/geofin/).
National Park Service uses the “Park Atlas” to aid in a variety of planning
efforts. The Park Atlas constitutes a web mapping application for each of the
four hundred plus units of the park system. Each is built in a similar way and
presents core operational and resource data in a ready-to-use, tool-rich
environment to bring spatial understanding to planning. The majority of the
Park Atlas web maps are internal to the park service; however, a few
public-facing atlases have been established. The Sequoia Kings Canyon atlas is
one example: https://imgis.nps.gov/html/Index.html?configBase=/Geocortex/Essentials/DSC/REST/sites/SEKI_Park_Atlas_Public/viewers/SEKI/virtualdirectory/Resources/Config/Default.
These are just
two examples of a growing number of applications that develop and stage
geospatial data for use in conservation, resource management and planning.