Coastal Spatial Data Infrastructure
The term Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) is now in common use in countries around the world, although definitions for the term differ quite considerably. The stated objectives of SDI initiatives vary as much as do the definitions, legal mandates, types of organisation responsible for specifying and implementing SDI and actual progress achieved in creating national and regional SDIs. One complication in specifying any SDI is the nature of spatial information, i.e. information with an important location attribute, often said to represent 80% of all information held, especially at government level. The visionaries and designers of SDI must accommodate the widely varying information needs of highly diverse disciplines and sectors of society, business and government. Health epidemiologists are seldom interested in the same spatial data as geological surveyors, air traffic controllers or coastal zone managers. Yet an important overlap in jurisdiction and information needs may arise, e.g. when a potential health epidemic is generated by toxic chemical concentrations in marine fauna later consumed by area residents. Then knowledge of the coastal zone flora and fauna, hydrography, tidal states, nearby land use practices of industry and agriculture and transport routes, fishing practices and zones all become intertwined. The complex relationships between different types of spatial information are one reason that countries take different routes to specify their SDI, ranging from visions to strategies to goals to detailed content (data and standards) and implementation plans (rules and regulations). We all recognize that the coastal zone is a difficult geographical area to manage due to temporal issues (tides and seasons) and the overlapping of physical geography and hydrography (offshore, near shore, shoreline, inshore), of jurisdictions, legal mandates and remits of government agencies and the often competing needs of stakeholders. Typically, many different local, national and regional government agencies are responsible for different aspects of the same physical areas and uses of the coastal zone, e.g. fisheries, environment, agriculture, transport (inland and marine), urban planning and cadastre, national mapping agency and the hydrographic service. Conflict resolution in this complex piece of real estate called the “coast” is sometimes used as justification for special attention for the coast within NSDI initiatives. As Bartlett (2000) expresses it: “Given the diversity of interest groups, stakeholders, managerial authorities and administrative structures that converge at
the shore, conflicts are almost inevitable between and among coastal users, managers, developers and the wider public, as well as between human society and the natural environment.” Because of such complex physical and institutional relationships, it is not possible to develop a coastal SDI (CSDI) in isolation from the broader National SDI (NSDI) for a nation or Regional SDI (RSDI). CSDI will necessarily be a subset of a more comprehensive NSDI because the coastal zone covers multiple physical and institutional spaces included in the generic NSDI. For that reason, it is important that people and agencies with specific knowledge and experience of the coastal zone and marine offshore areas and information requirements be an integral part of the NSDI and RSDI planning process.