To sustainably manage and protect their marine biodiversity, Pacific Island States have an appetite for open source geographic information systems and related planning tools. A new “cookbook” provides a free training hub and community of practice for spatial planning practitioners in the Pacific.
The diverse goods and services that are supplied by marine and coastal ecosystems include not only the provision of fish and other seafood, caught on the high seas, near coral reefs or raised in coastal aquaculture farms. The ocean is also an important source of medicinal, ornamental and genetic resources. In addition, marine ecosystem services also include often overlooked processes, e.g. climate regulation, coastal protection, erosion prevention and even air purification. Marine and coastal habitats represent nurseries for economically important species and provide in addition cultural services.
Recent efforts to value these marine ecosystem goods and services more holistically have assisted for example decision-makers in Pacific Island Countries to highlight the need to balance economic, social and ecological objectives, in order to sustainably use and maintain the Pacific’s rich biodiversity. To achieve this, marine spatial planning has turned out to be an essential step in the process.
The regional IKI project on “Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries” (MACBIO) assists government and civil society partners in their efforts to assess the economics of marine ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB), to encourage and implement inter-sectoral marine spatial planning and to document effective management approaches.
Under the MACBIO project, the so-called “QBook” was developed in 2015 as a training platform for users of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Pacific Island Countries and was launched in March 2016. Based on the license-free open-source application Quantum GIS or QGIS, the platform offers training materials, country-specific data and other resources to strengthen GIS capacity and to address the demand for license-free spatial data tools in the region.
The QBook connects students and lecturers, regional agencies, NGOs, government departments and the private sector and allows beginning as well as experienced GIS practitioners to find and share solutions and “recipes” for a wide range of spatial data analysis and management situations.
It offers regional and national solutions and scenarios and makes them relevant and relatable to its users. For example, a user from the Fisheries Department in the Solomon Islands, involved in the national marine spatial planning process can use the platform to learn about mapping tools used by Lands Departments in other Pacific Island States. Users from Vanuatu can now share their experience and scenarios from existing planning efforts with users in Tonga and Kiribati through the QBook.
A different scenario contributed by a public works department was the challenge to map unscheduled power outages. Another user suggested designing a spatial database of all power line utilities and their age and state of maintenance. This does not only provide logistic advantages, saving the government and private sector time and resources, but also offers a systematic approach to mapping and addressing line damages in case of natural disasters, such as cyclones, which are frequent in the region.
An NGO working in Fiji presented a question on how communities can best be empowered to map their own natural resources. Lecturers and students of the University of the South Pacific responded with a community-based mapping guide that has now been integrated and reaches a much wider audience through the QBook platform.
The diversity of these user cases highlights the need and potential for constructive exchanges across government sectors on planning challenges and solutions. Through close collaboration with a growing range of partner organisations and an increasing number of users, the QBook aims to provide a lively platform for all users of spatial data applications throughout the Pacific.
This regional approach became recently the latest solution on the Panorama platform, a partnership initiative to document and promote examples of inspiring, replicable solutions across a range of conservation and development topics.