Map dashboard shows HK's biodiversity conversation efforts - EJ Insight



Map dashboard shows HK's biodiversity conversation efforts

In January of this year, I witnessed the sweet results of my first steps which started some 30 years ago.

In the 1990s, when I was studying for my doctor degree, I lived in a container in Cape D'Aguilar for half a year to facilitate my marine research. Watching the natural scenery of the first morning light and the ebb and flow of the tide every day inspired me to slowly appreciate the mysteries of the ocean. Since then, I have been hoping that one day this precious marine information gathered can be integrated so that others can better preserve and make good use of natural resources.

Therefore, it is very gratifying to learn that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) of the University of Hong Kong have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate collaboration in the management and dissemination of marine biodiversity data, and to work for the launch of the Biodiversity Geographic Information System (BGIS) next year. The more comprehensive data repository can foster better understanding and conservation of Hong Kong's wealth of biodiversity.

According to the Hong Kong Biodiversity Information Hub (HKBIH), a web-based platform managed by the AFCD to provide a one-stop shop for information on biodiversity of Hong Kong, despite the small size of the territory and being one of the most highly urbanised and densely populated cities in the world, Hong Kong is extremely rich in biodiversity and is home to a wide variety of native flora and fauna, including some endemic species. For example, Hong Kong, which comprises less than 1% of the area of Guangdong Province, is home to more than one-third of the local amphibian species recorded in the region and more than one-third of China's bird species. The number of hard coral species in our waters surpasses that in the Caribbean Sea. We have inherited many benefits from such biodiversity, or "ecosystem services", including a rich marine and land base environment to supply food, trees to produce oxygen and regulate the climate, and non-material cultural enrichment, including aesthetic and spiritual element for recreational and educational activities.

By integrating biodiversity information from different sources, HKBIH allows the public to gain insights into local biodiversity from multiple perspectives in one stop, thereby getting closer to nature.

The launch of BGIS has made the local biodiversity data database more comprehensive, what can be the next step? The government may follow the method of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in setting up the Global Observation and Biodiversity Information Portal (GLOBIL). The online platform uses a cloud-based geographic information system (GIS) platform to support conservation efforts around the world. It encourages the public to use geospatial data and resources in conservation works. The platform includes key datasets for download, StoryMaps to showcase WWF's conservation efforts using geospatial data, and dashboards that displays key statistics.

To better engage the public and reduce their concerns about reclamation, Hong Kong can establish a marine life database to facilitate planning and monitoring of natural resources, as well as comparison of changes in marine life before and after reclamation. This is similar to the Government newly launched online map dashboard which lists over 700 hygiene black spots, and allows the public to compare the situation before and after cleansing operations conducted by the Government.

Actually, apart from the AFCD, various government departments such as the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Development Bureau are engaged in conservation work. The Government could use a digital platform Common Operational Picture (COP), with geographical information as the core to enable different departments in communicating with each other to co-ordinate the government efforts in conservation.

At the time of writing, I looked out of the window as it rained and thought of my mentor, Professor Brian Morton. He is a well-known marine biologist and had contributed to conservation of Hong Kong. I was inspired by him to use GIS to build the first marine life database for HKU, which is designed for more in-depth and comprehensive research. Time flies, and although Professor Morton passed away nearly two years ago, his lifelong contribution to the conservation of Hong Kong is still deeply active in our hearts, and we hope that the birth of BGIS can extend his spirit and let him be immortalised.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong