Marine biodiversity is responsible in large part for the earth natural wealth. This
importance can be assured by the fisheries and tourism industries, whilst it
provide important ecosystems services, such as protection of the coast and
absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, the marine biodiversity
has been declining through the centuries mainly due to human activities. Despite
the global research efforts to understand ocean’s biodiversity, they still lack an
integrated and systemic approach, resulting in isolated data and perceptions of the
real impact of human activities.
The construction of knowledge about biodiversity is a cooperative product. Its
study and conservation efforts require a multi and interdisciplinary approach
(CANHOS et al., 2004). Therefore, any attempt to integrated data from different
sources requires data standards definitions, such as proper metadata to
characterize the environment, means of data sampling, processing, exchange and
integration. Besides setting standards, it also requires Information Technology –
IT tolls to allow virtual integration of distinct data sets and potential analysis
to build up knowledge. Finally, since it is a cooperative product, distributed
access is the key issue for setting a strong collaborative network between
researchers and institutions. In other words, everyone should benefit for sharing
data and information.
Ongoing international efforts to integrate data from different projects and
monitoring programs have been focused in the potential benefits from Information
Technology, especially those based on the World Wide Web. This is the case of UNEP
World Conservation Monitoring Centre and its IMAPS (Centre’s Interactive Map
Service) initiative; OBIS-SEAMAP (Ocean Biogeographic Information System - Spatial
Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations); ReefBASE (Global Information
System on Coral Reefs). These three examples embrace global scale, whereas others
follow country limits, such as BERDS (Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data
System) from Belize).
Despite the significant data and information that has been produced for the past
thirty years, the efforts towards such IT applications to integrate and visualize
biodiversity data in Brazil are still shy. The Centro de Referência em Informação
Ambiental – CRIA is one of the ongoing initiatives. The Marine Mammals Monitoring
System (SIMMAM ) is a recent attempt to integrate marine mammals’ data that is well
fragmented in the hands of institutions and researchers. In addition to the
official support of the Brazilian Environmental Agency, the project will receive in
2006 financial resources from PETROBRAS to conduce a thorough review of
publications and public onboard observers’ registers from sismic operation of oil
industry. These data will be eventually added to the system.
A few marine conservation projects, such as TAMAR, BALEIA FRANCA, BALEIA JUBARTE,
and ALBATROZ are investing part of its efforts in the construction of information
systems to handle the significant amount of data that has been produced in the past
years. They are conscious of the limitations and risks of having data in separate
spreadsheet, and the benefits of having a database. The important aspect of it is
that they already see the perspective of data integration, therefore they are
seeking solutions that a based in the Web. The TAMAR Project is an example. Its
DBASE database which holds twenty five years of data sampling will be migrated to a
web based information systems that include data visualization via WebGIS and web
services for interoperability. The system will be fully operational by June/2006 .
Taking the Brazilian scenario as an opportunity, this project proposes the
development of a framework for an Internet based Brazilian Marine Biodiversity
Observatory - OBBIM. This objective is supported by SIMMAM project itself, plus
partners such as TAMAR and BALEIA FRANCA. In a long run it is expected that other
projects adhere to the Observatory objectives.
In general terms, the observatory should support international standards for
metadata and data exchange, such as XML, WMS and WFS. It should include access to
different data sources through web services, integration and geospatial support to
foster oceanographic research community interaction and data exchange. It also must
provide open source architecture to reduce maintenance costs.
The Observatory conceptual framework has been constructed upon international
similar experiences, and will be operational for tests from june 2006.