Sydney Harbour Atlas Case Study

The development of Version 1 of the Sydney Harbour Atlas is a case study in a project to support this mission and the Bras D’Or Institute’s vision of an atlas with principle funding from the Atlantic Ecosystem Initiative (Environment and Climate Change Canada) and the Canada Green Corps program of the United Nations Association of Canada. The principle objective of the larger project was to make accessible to the public and other researchers, species occurrence data using the Ocean Biogeographic Information System Canada (OBIS Canada) Information Publishing Tool (OBIS Canada IPT). The development of the Atlas was designed to demonstrate the display of these data in its environmental and spatial context.

The objective of the Sydney Harbour Atlas (Fig. 1) is to assemble all of the data, information and knowledge of the ecosystem in a secure, accessible and entertaining geo-spatial reference. The purposes of the Atlas are to create an effective decision support tool for planning and management, to catalogue the value of the ecosystem goods and services provided by the harbour and portray them in a manner that informs all stakeholders in its future, and to provide a training and exploration platform for highly qualified personnel in the tertiary education sector.

Figure 1: Partial screen grab (search and additional information windows not shown) of the Sydney Harbour Atlas.

The estuarine harbour of Sydney, Nova Scotia on the island of Cape Breton has supplied goods and services to humans since the Holocene transgression. As an urban marine ecosystem and strategically located maritime port, it has supported commercial fisheries, military campaigns, and coal and steel industries since the 16th century. Now  Sydney seeks to re-vitalize the commercial port while maintaining the natural assets of the harbour. The recent completions of the tar ponds remediation, the dredge realignment of the shipping channel and creation of a large, new industrial surface, benchmark the next phase in the history of the Harbour.

A customized version of the COINAtlantic Search Utility (CSU) has been developed to visualize the map layers assembled for the Atlas: The CSU is a search engine which uses the Google Search API to crawl its index for related spatial data in KML and WMS (Web Mapping Service) format, and then displays the results. The CSU also generates an internal data base of WMS and KML spatial data resources from the search results. This data base can be searched as an alternative to searching with the Google Search API (there are over 3,400 records in the data base pointing to remote geospatial services). The CSU enables the user to add any other WMS that is found by using the tool’s search function or known to the user so that the species occurrence data can be viewed in its spatial and / or environmental context.

Version 1 of the Sydney Harbour Atlas displays, at opening, map layers from 4 main sources (see Table 1).

Future developments include the addition of more ecosystem relevant map layers, the publication of OGC compliant Web Feature Services that would permit the user to stylize and analyze the data in their own GIS environment, the improvement of the layers window to provide easier user access to the many layers without scrolling, and expanding the richness of the metadata displayed in the “Additional Layer Information” window.

Table 1. Examples of map layers for the Sydney Harbour Atlas by type of web mapping service.

This project was presented at the TDWG 2017 Annual Conference "Data Integration in a Big Data Universe: Associating Occurrences with Genes, Phenotypes, and Environments". The text on this page comes from the presnetation given at the TDWG 2017 Conference titled "Sydney Harbour Atlas". See the full abstract here for authors and additional information. The presentation was part of a session partially organized by COINAtlantic called "Data Integration in a Big Data Universe: Associating Occurrences with Genes, Phenotypes, and Environments". Follow this link to learn more about the session.

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