Hydrospatial-enabled Ocean Knowledge for the Blue Economy

Hydrospatial-enabled Ocean Knowledge for the Blue Economy

What is Blue Economy?

The World Bank defines the blue economy as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem”. The blue economy comprises of a range of economic sectors including maritime shipping, fishing and aquaculture, coastal tourism, renewable energy, water desalination, undersea cabling, seabed extractive industries and deep sea mining, marine genetic resources, biotechnology, etc. These sectors together account for the overall contribution of oceans to economies, the environmental and ecological sustainability of oceans, and provide opportunity for growth for both developed and developing countries.

Ocean-linked sectors are estimated to contribute US $1.5 trillion in value-add to the global economy, supporting around 31 million jobs[Source]. Taking into account the reliance of national economies on ocean-linked sectors, countries around the world are developing strategies and frameworks for investment to develop the blue economy, by balancing competing priorities. Building up ocean knowledge is vital for evidence-based action to protect and sustainably manage the ocean.

Ocean Knowledge Requirements of the Blue Economy

Ocean knowledge is essential for understanding the complexities of ocean ecosystems, informing decision-making, and promoting sustainable ocean management. Advances in ocean science and technology that can revolutionize how ocean data is collected, analyzed, and used need to be harnessed to enhance understanding regarding the ocean ecosystem and associated activities. The technology innovations enable accounting for the natural wealth of the ocean, in addition to the measurement of production indicators like contribution to GDP, thereby enabling the development of holistic understanding regarding the ocean ecosystem. In order to ensure benefits of blue economy are shared among diverse stakeholders, it is important to encourage capacity building and transfer of technology and knowledge, as well as to invest in building ocean literacy and awareness to make ocean knowledge available to everyone.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation for catalyzing new opportunities for sustainable ocean use. It provides a convening framework for stakeholders from diverse ocean-related domains to develop the knowledge and the partnerships needed to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Through this, the knowledge required about the oceans to aid sustainable development will be identified, comprehensive knowledge regarding the oceans will be generated, and the adoption and use of ocean knowledge will be encouraged and enhanced.

Hydrospatial Component of Ocean Knowledge and its Impact

Hydrospatial denotes data, information, and knowledge that is associated with a particular location and time of the earth’s waters and their contiguous zones. It is a sub-set of the geospatial domain, and deals with all spatio-temporal physical, biological, and chemical data, information, and knowledge in any water body on earth[Source]. It aims to refine the concept of geospatial within the context of hydrography. Hydrospatial sciences play a central role in addressing the competing needs of diverse ocean stakeholders by providing baseline data and ocean mapping to support decision-making. Hydrospatial information or marine geospatial information provides the foundation of data to understand interdependencies of physical, chemical, and biological phenomenon.

Through a survey carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the value of ocean data, it was understood that many ocean data users including environmental engineers, business service providers, conservations, ocean modelers and forecasters, etc., regularly used parameters broadly related to hydrography. Hydrographic and hydrospatial data are not used in isolation, but are frequently combined in analysis with data from other domains such as marine geology, fisheries, hydrocarbon extraction sites, pipelines, and transport, etc. The integration of hydrospatial data with data from other domains leads to the generation of ocean knowledge which can enable more effective planning decisions leading to more efficient economic activity, better protection and management of marine protected areas, more efficient investment in critical infrastructure such as power cables, etc[Source].

Need for Hydrospatial Infrastructure

Hydrographic agencies, which are traditionally seen as custodians and producers of hydrospatial information are evolving beyond data collection and production to enabling information that supports blue economy. In addition private industry collect and own a wide range of ocean data, which can be made publicly available through the development of data sharing frameworks and collaborative partnership models. The integration of data from the hydrographic agencies, private industry, and other stakeholders is crucial to meet the evolving needs of the blue economy. In addition, integration of hydrospatial information with terrestrial geospatial information, and data from other sources in the wider digital ecosystem, will aid in developing a comprehensive understanding of the impact of blue economy. The development of hydrospatial infrastructures which encompass policies, technology, data, collaborations, standards, and other components for the holistic development of marine geospatial ecosystem, is imperative for this integration.

The UNGGIM has developed an Operational Framework for Integrated Marine Geospatial Information (UN-IGIF-Hydro) which presents the case for investing in and improving marine geospatial information management programmes, and integrating it with wider digital information ecosystems. Hydrospatial infrastructures can be developed using the UN-IGIF-Hydro as reference, and integrated with the wider geospatial and digital ecosystems. The development of holistic hydrospatial infrastructures considering the evolving use cases and demand will support innovation, and aid in the generation of knowledge and the development of solutions for equitable and sustainable development of the blue economy under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.

Hydrospatial Infrastructure and Blue Economy Summit

Geospatial World Forum will host the “Hydrospatial Infrastructure and Blue Economy Summit”, with the theme ‘Hydrospatial Infrastructure Enabling Integrated Ocean Knowledge Solutions’ on 15-16 May 2024, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The summit will discuss the evolving demand for ocean knowledge, the opportunities for growth and innovation in the blue economy, and the need for development of a holistic hydrospatial infrastructure encompassing technology, data, policies, collaborations, standards, etc to deliver demand-driven ocean knowledge solutions.

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