Leading authority calls for conservation efforts to be mapped

By Daniel Lato19 Nov 2014

Cutting-edge mapping technology is the solution for managing global efforts to protect endangered wildlife and habitats – including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – according to a visiting international natural resources and conservation specialist.

Speaking at the conclusion of the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Katie Decker – a lead consultant with global mapping giant Esri – has praised the work of Australian conservation groups, but says more can be done.

Ms Decker’s comments come off the back of US President Barack Obama’s call to the Australian government to step up its efforts to better manage the region’s unique environmental challenges.

Speaking from the G20 summit in Brisbane over the weekend, President Obama said Australia risked losing the “natural glory” of the Great Barrier Reef if the issue of climate change was not addressed.

Australia comprises more than 10,000 protected areas – over 127 million hectares – making effective management of national parks a difficult logistical process.

Ms Decker said smart mapping technology – commonly known as Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – offers the Australian government and conservation groups one of the few proven means for streamlining the management of environmental protection.

“Esri’s ArcGIS mapping technology platform is currently being used by the world’s leading conservation groups as a framework for decision-making in an effort to identify and protect some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems,” Ms Decker said.

“By leveraging the platform conservation groups have been able to clearly detect trends and quantify changes in the environment.”

Ms Decker said it’s an approach that would likely help arrest the decline of the Great Barrier Reef.

“By layering information such as chemical levels in the water, shipping traffic and water temperature changes on Esri’s smart maps, we can better understand threats to the reef and ultimately uncover ways to protect this prized national icon,” Ms Decker said.

“Beyond facilitating more informed decision-making, the flexibility of the technology also allows for the smart maps to be shared with the broader community – helping to highlight issues and encourage involvement in the conservation process.”

Ms Decker said the transparency offered through the technology naturally boosts stakeholder involvement by allowing decision-makers to share information central to the management of protected areas via the universal language of maps.

More than 4,000 delegates from 160 countries attended the IUCN World Parks Congress, coming together to set the agenda for the global management of protected areas and wildlife over the next decade.

The event, run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is being held at Sydney Olympic Park and runs from 12-19 November.

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