Online access to aquatic biodiversity

Online access to aquatic biodiversity


Julian Sellars
Julian Sellars
Research data analyst
Ministry of fisheries, wellington, new zeland
Email: [email protected]

Biodiversity is important to the people and Government of New Zealand. This is recognised by the twenty programmes that have been funded since 2000 by the Government to specifically help achieve outcomes in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. One of these initiatives was NABIS (National Aquatic Biodiversity Information System), with the aim to provide information about biodiversity in the aquatic environment

In New Zealand (NZ) the aquatic environment is highly valued by a multitude of groups. Maori have a special affinity with the ocean, and this is recognised in the Treaty of Waitangi. Many of the NZ industries depend on biological resources and healthy ecosystems, such as NZ’s $1.2 billion a year commercial fishing industry. So a need to understand the spatial interactions of our marine biodiversity was recognised.

Spatial interaction in aquatic environment
The NABIS concept was developed to deliver marine spatial biological, fisheries management and relevant contextual data to the widest possible audience. An internet based GIS solution describing the spatial distribution of living organisms and related fisheries management areas in the NZ marine environment was the best solution.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Fisheries, the development of the application was the first step towards also meeting the wider geospatial data management aims of Ministry of Fisheries. There was also possible intrinsic worth for the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation and also fulfilling the objectives of the NZ Biodiversity Strategy. The intended audience for this was decision makers, planners, central, regional and local government and general public rather than scientists. NABIS provides guidance and contact information as to where users may source more detailed information.

For the Ministry of Fisheries, NABIS plays a role in enabling effective fisheries management. NABIS brings together in a summarised form vast quantities of information that previously existed in disparate databases or even only in paper form into a single, easily accessed system that supports decision making processes affecting marine biodiversity.

NABIS is a website application that uses GIS tools to provide spatial definition and visual representation of our marine biological and fisheries management data. Users have the ability to view and analyse large quantities of general data relating to aquatic biodiversity. It was released in December 2003 to the Ministry of Fisheries staff and July 2004 to the general public. As part of continuous improvement strategy, a continuos feedback is encouraged and differing needs are catered to when they arise.