'A New Management Tool for Decision-Making'. (Resources)

Article excerpt

More than two and a half years in development and after a decade of planning, the UN Atlas of the Oceans represents the most ambitious global scientific information collaboration ever online, and an international consensus-building tool that is expected to assist negotiations of future marine-related agreements.

The need for the Atlas was recognized during the 1992 Earth Summit in response to a call to identify and address the greatest environmental challenges facing the planet.

Amid mounting concern over the continuing deterioration of marine and coastal ecosystems, several of the world's foremost ocean agencies created this tool, with the goal of helping reverse the decline and promote the sustainable development of oceans. Overfishing, destruction of coastal habitat, and pollution from industry, farms and households are endangering not only fish--the leading individual source of animal protein in the human diet--but also marine biodiversity and even the global climate. The Atlas spotlights these and other acute marine issues.

It combines the credibility and leadership of the United Nations with the vast knowledge of scientific organizations to monitor, diagnose and heal the great oceans of the world. The Atlas is intended for a complete cross-section of users--from schoolchildren, educators and the general public, to policy makers, scientists, the media, non-governmental organizations and resource managers--needing access to comprehensive databases. It is designed to be an encyclopedic resource, as well as the world's foremost information clearing house and online forum for experts in ocean issues.

The Atlas contains an initial 14 global maps and links to hundreds of others, including 264 maps showing the distribution of fishery resources. There are also 100 maps showing global ice cover, navigation routes, earthquake and volcanic activity, temperature gradients, bottom contours, salinity and other ocean characteristics.

A successful example of cooperation among UN agencies and international centres of excellence, the substantial amount of information contained in the Atlas databases developed by the United Nations is now available to everybody (see http://www.oceansatlas.org). The web site is supplemented by a CD-ROM and other media, co-published with Cinegram Multimedia, to reach broader audiences and regions where Internet access is difficult.

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