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Abu Dhabi launches online coastal atlas

UAE: Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) unveiled the Coastal Resources Atlas and Vulnerability Index (‘Coastal Atlas’), an online resource detailing Abu Dhabi’s coastline and waters. Information about coastal environment of the emirate, oil spill, habitat of fishes and dugongs will be constantly updated on the Atlas.

The result of two years’ work, the atlas is the first comprehensive resource of its kind in the Gulf region and one of the most technologically-advanced in the world, EAD has said. “The atlas serves as an interactive guide that will cater to a broad range of people ranging from policy-makers, scientists and coastal developers to community members,” said Thabit Zahran Al Abdul Salam, director of EAD’s Biodiversity Management Sector.

While most of the data is available to everyone online, a second tier of the atlas is a GIS-based  extension that contains commercial or sensitive information. These can only be accessed by those authorised by the EAD. “Locations of oil rigs, for example, can only be viewed by those who are granted access.”

The atlas has been primarily designed as a tool to aid policy makers and development planners understand more about the marine environment, helping them to understand the potential impact of new policies, legislation and development decisions. It details environmental sensitivities, such as different habitats, their local biodiversity and their vulnerabilities, according to CMRECS (Coastal and Marine Resources and Ecosystem Classification System) criteria, which is internationally-recognised and considered global best practice.

The oil spill modelling application, part of the atlas, outlines potential scenarios in the event of an oil spill in the Arabian Gulf. Based on the wind directions and current pattern, the model will help find the trajectory of the spill and point to the habitats that will be impacted.

The Coastal Atlas has already gained international recognition, the EAD said. The atlas received global best practice award — the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Special Achievement Award for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental Management for 2010. The award, which was announced about a month ago, will be presented to EAD next month, officials said.

Source: gulfnews