chapter  18
18 Pages

Applying the Geospatial Technologies to Estuary Environments

Around the World the value and vulnerability of estuaries has long been recognised. The National Estuary Study of 1969 in the U.S. is just one such example ( 4.htm). In the UK, initiatives by English Nature (EN) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to develop new approaches to estuary management in England and Wales, and Scotland respectively, led to Estuary Management Plans (English Nature, 1993). In Australia there have also been many similar initiatives to develop sustainable management of estuarine environments increasingly coming under pressure from tourism and industry (NLWRA, 2002) and, more recently, in the UK, from the impact of offshore windfarms e.g. Robin Rigg in the Solway Firth (Anonymous, 2003). Green (1994; 1995) proposed the idea of GIS-based estuary information systems in the UK as a means by which it would be possible to collect, store, analyse and display spatial data and information to aid in estuary management. At the time, GIS was just beginning to develop into a practical tool for environmental applications in coastal zone management. In the intervening years, a great deal of interest has been shown in the development of GIS and the related geospatial technologies to aid in environmental monitoring, mapping, modelling, and management. Rapid developments in information technology (IT), including the Internet and the related technologies, have also led to the more widespread use of geospatial data and information for environmental applications by coastal managers and practitioners. Such developments have been responsible for providing the basis for access to data and information for management and public participation exercises. Increasingly, decision support systems (DSS) and information systems are also being used to support data and information requirements for coastal management. With the continuing evolution of Information Technology (IT), the collection of, and access to, both data and information have rapidly been extended to the use of mobile technologies. These include Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), digital still and video cameras, and mobile GIS products such as ESRI's ArcPad, PocketGIS (, HandyGIS

( and FastMap ( Field data collection and access to information, via remote uploading and downloading, sending email attachments (e.g. photographs taken with a digital still camera or camera accessory for a mobile phone), and accessing the Internet using wireless technology are now all providing new opportunities to collect, work and interact with spatial data ‘on-the-fly’ (e.g. Vivoni and Camilli, 2003). Alongside the hardware and software developments there have also been a number of new and important airborne and satellite-borne sensors. These have provided new sources of finer spectral and spatial resolution data to assist in the monitoring of coastal and estuarine environments e.g. CASI (Compact Airborne Spectrographic Imager), whilst LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data provides unique high-resolution height data. The launch of ENVISAT in 2002 by the European Space Agency (ESA) for dedicated environmental monitoring, and European projects such as COASTWATCH ( are also increasing awareness of the role of EO data for coastal monitoring in the context of GMES (Global Monitoring of Environment and Security). This chapter presents an overview of some of the recent developments in the application of the geospatial technologies to estuary environments as the basis to support growing requirements for data and information in the context of environmental monitoring, mapping, and management. The role of some of the different geospatial technologies for environmental data collection, processing and access to information is examined. To conclude, some future developments are discussed. The chapter is illustrated using a number of examples drawn from Europe (including the UK), North America, and Australia.