The Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) has been developed to support the European Union’s efforts to substantially strengthen the effectiveness of international governance for biodiversity and ecosystem services and more generally for strengthening the capacity to mobilize and use biodiversity data, information and forecasts so that they are readily accessible to policymakers, managers, experts and other users. DOPA is conceived as a set of web based services to provide a large variety of end users with means to assess, monitor and possibly forecast the state of, and pressures on protected areas at local, regional and global scale.
I have to admit that until very recently I didn't know much about this very interesting biodiversity information system which was developed over the last five years at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in collaboration with other international organizations, such as GBIF, UNEP-WCMC, Birdlife International and RSPB. DOPA is not only designed to assess the state and pressure on protected areas and to prioritize them accordingly, in order to support decision making and fund allocation processes, but it is also conceived as a monitoring and ecological forecasting service, through e-Habitat, its core web processing service. The use of open standards and of open source programming languages for the development of the core functionalities of the system were expected to encourage the participation of the scientific community beyond existing partnerships and to favor the sharing of such an observatory which could be installed anywhere.
The first of the proposed tools, DOPA Explorer has been released in early April:
The main purpose of the DOPA Explorer is to provide simple means to explore, analyse and compare the existing reference information on species and ecosystems that is available on protected areas at the country and ecoregion levels. End-users can use DOPA Explorer to identify the protected areas with the most unique ecosystems and species or assess the level of pressure coming from agriculture or population.
The web interface provides users with simple means to explore nearly 16 000 of the world's protected areas. Although the system is currently frequently overloaded it provides some very interesting mapping tools and one can certainly see its value for a lot of applications.
In a recent letter of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Executive Secretary encourages all the Parties to the CBD to make use of the DOPA Explorer in their actions towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11:
By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.