National areas of interest for seabed mapping, characterisation and biodiversity assessment
Seabed and marine biodiversity data are time-consuming and costly to collect, so it is imperative that acquisition is focused on areas that align with end user priorities. The value that different stakeholders place on seabed and biodiversity data, however, can be difficult to determine. As a consequence, marine survey planning may not always be based on the most comprehensive information. A shared process for identifying survey priorities would benefit research users, funding agencies and infrastructure providers, and research institutions with mapping interests and capabilities, as well as the wider marine research community.
Assisting the planning and prioritisation of marine surveys
This scoping study assisted the planning and prioritisation of marine surveys that undertake physical and biological seabed data collection in Australia. Through a process of workshops and targeted engagement with stakeholders from the seabed mapping community, the project created a set of standard metadata to allow users to define spatial Areas of Interest (AOI). For example, Parks Australia may identify priority areas within Australian Marine Parks.
A submission and publication service was developed for these areas as part of the open access web application, the AusSeabed Survey Coordination Tool.
The standard metadata were used in a prototype prioritisation framework that allows users to transparently and consistently establish a rank and priorities for survey work or data delivery processes. The prioritisation is based on rankings established by three sets of criteria:
- the organisation’s purpose driving the data need, the type of data being collected, the ecosystem, management conditions and zoning, pressures, and the availability of existing data;
- logistics, time-sensitivity of collection, and whether there is a relative organisational priority that can be applied; and
- user interest in prioritising an area based on other Areas of Interest that either intersect or are in close proximity and represent opportunities for collaboration and cost sharing.
The engagement campaign associated with the launch of the AOI functionality in the AusSeabed survey coordination tool has led to solid uptake. In March–July 2022, 134 users registered, with 17 new users from 11 different organisations submitting 85 new AOI. Existing users from the previous version of the tool reviewed, edited and updated 101 AOI to align with the standard metadata. In total, there are now approximately 370 AOI being published from the tool to the AusSeabed Marine Portal.
This project sets a strong foundation for understanding the value of data collection and delivery within the Australian marine estate. For the first time, the Australian marine science community is able to see in-depth the data needs across disciplines and sectors presented through a single portal. We hope that this service helps encourage a greater number of multidisciplinary surveys with a higher degree of collaboration and cost sharing.
Further engagement will need to continue to ensure proper coverage and representation of the different sectors and working with national data collection programs to maximise the benefit of data collection opportunities. Both the AOI functionality of the Survey Coordination Tool, and the AusSeabed Marine Portal will be maintained by Geoscience Australia who will also continue working to raise the profile and uptake of the service among government, private, academic and community sectors.