Participants of the meeting
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

The First Global Ecosystem Atlas Convening Meeting, supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 17 – 18 May 2023. The convening meeting facilitated discussion from various stakeholders on the Global Ecosystem Atlas, an initiative led by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an intergovernmental organisation with global partners across the value chain comprised of government, international and private sector, civil society organisations and scientists collaborating to provide equitable access to environmental information as a basis for evidence-based decision-making.

The Global Ecosystem Atlas is a collaborative initiative to develop an integrated collection of global, regional, and national scale maps of ecosystem types for terrestrial, freshwater, coastal marine and oceanic marine environments to support applications requiring information on ecosystem extent and distribution. The atlas will accelerate cooperation to produce an explorable interface for global, regional, and national ecosystem maps to assist countries, national entities, and local communities in decision-making at the science-policy interfacing and implementing of the SDG agenda for climate and nature.

The opening remarks for the meeting were issued by Her Excellency Khadeeja Naseem, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Government of the Maldives, with a key message on the importance of information for developing adaptation strategies and avoiding maladaptation which can be addressed by the ecosystem atlas. This was echoed by His Excellency Vaimu’a Muliava, Minister for Digital Transformation and Technological Innovation Development, for the Government of New Caledonia with his annotations on the vulnerability of Pacific islands countries, and territories due to climate change impacts, particularly on the environmental ecosystem and biodiversity which can be addressed through leveraging technological innovation for local communities using the ecosystem atlas.

The two-day meeting featured round table discussions with stakeholders engaged in remote sensing and in-situ Earth Observations, science, technology, policymaking, monitoring, and reporting under environment agreements to accelerate cooperation on developing the Global Ecosystem Atlas.

The atlas represents more than just a typical global product; it is a comprehensive global service designed to offer national entities the necessary resources, digital data, and tools for effective monitoring and mapping. This initiative originated from the 2019 Ministerial Talanoa in Canberra and further discussions held at the 2022 Oceania Geospatial Symposium (OGS) in New Caledonia. The intent was to create a tangible contribution that the Pacific community will value greatly. One of the outcomes of the symposium was the establishment of a regional Wetlands Monitoring program as a priority. As a response to this, the development of the first Global Ecosystem Atlas aims to enhance the Pacific region's capacity to carry out wetlands monitoring. This includes facilitating access to data and tools that can be utilized by Pacific island countries to expedite their wetlands monitoring efforts.

The mandate of SPREP as the region’s key inter-governmental organisation for environment and sustainable development has ensured that the secretariat will convey that perspective to the convening meeting and provide insight into the codesign and set-up of the atlas that can be a valuable, meaningful, and actionable contribution to the Pacific region.

Ms. Vani Koroisamanunu, Environmental GIS Specialist from SPREP, represented the organisation and delivered a presentation during which she highlighted the regional environment indicators employed for national reporting on the state of the environment. She also discussed the mapping of these indicators to global reporting frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) amongst others. Ms. Koroisamanunu identified gaps in the accessibility of environmental data for many Pacific Island countries.

During her presentation, Ms. Koroisamanunu stressed the significance of accessing in-situ earth observation data for well-informed decision-making in the Pacific region. She said, “despite the existence of numerous global tools and platforms, these resources are often underutilized by Pacific Island countries due to limitations in spatial and temporal coverage that do not adequately cater to the unique characteristics of the islands”. Ms. Koroisamanunu expressed her hope that the atlas can bridge this gap for the Pacific region, serving as a crucial tool to assist Pacific Island countries in effectively monitoring their environment. Furthermore, she emphasized the importance of ground-truthing national data, which can enable data-driven decision-making by the leaders of these countries.

The Atlas is an open geospatial data repository and information system, presenting maps depicting the distribution of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. It aims to understand ecosystem distribution factors, address ecosystem decline, and enable nature-based solutions for resource management. Developed with world-class science, it provides a trusted foundation for measuring and reporting ecosystem changes.

The Global Ecosystem Atlas First Convening meeting was made possible with funding support from the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries/Multilateral Environmental Agreements (ACP/MEA3) by SPREP.

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