chapter  11
12 Pages

Towards an Institutional GIS for the Iroise Sea (France)

As far as coastal zones are concerned, many challenges faced by the scientific community and policy makers, planners and managers justify adoption of a transdisciplinary approach based on bio-chemical, geophysical and socioeconomical factors (Burbridge and Humphrey, 1999). GIS are well-established computer-based systems for storing, retrieving, analysing, modelling and visualising the vast amounts of spatial data that may be collected by several providers (Fabbri, 1998). Nevertheless, the implementation of a coastal database is a complex process which requires institutional support to guarantee the multidisciplinary approach, the sustainability of the project in terms of raising funds and human resources, and to promote relationships with other institutions working on the same area (De Sède and Thiérault, 1996). The major pollution caused by the Erika disaster, coupled with the catastrophic storms which reached the Atlantic coastal zone at the end of 1999, has led the French authorities to propose creation of a national coastal GIS. The implementation of such a project is complex, witnessed by the lack of any decision about which reference geographical data for the coastal zone to adopt (Allain et al., 2000). In fact, coastal data are scattered among many organisations. They are produced for lots of purposes and therefore are available at various scales, typologies and formats. In spite of these difficult conditions, there are a number of smaller, independent GIS projects at work on the French coastal zone (ENR/OELM, 2000; Guillaumont and Durand, 2000). This contribution describes the GIS implemented by Géosystèmes laboratory (CNRS, European Institute for Marine Studies) on the coastal zone of Finistère (western Brittany, see Figure 11.1) during the last ten years. In the beginning, the GIS was conceived as a support tool for monitoring and managing the Biosphere Reserve of Iroise, but today, it also serves as a powerful tool for carrying on integrated research on the coastal zone of the Iroise Sea, especially within the framework of the European Institute for Marine Studies (Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, IUEM). This latter institute brings together a number of

separate marine research teams from the University of Western Brittany, Brest, dealing respectively with oceanography, geology, biology, chemistry, geography, economy and law. The development from a GIS dedicated to scientific applications towards an institutional support is described below.