ICAN is a project of UNESCO IOC´s IODE Programme, and ICAN members seek to play a leadership role in forging international collaborations of value to the participating nations, thereby optimizing regional governance in coastal zone management and marine spatial planning.


We live on a blue planet, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. Some 37 per cent of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast. (UNEP)


CWAs are "...collections of digital maps and datasets with supplementary tables, illustrations, & information that systematically illustrate the coast, oftentimes with cartographic & decision support tools, all of which are accessible via the Internet."  O'Dea et al., 2007


Membership in ICAN is open to all interested parties who agree to the mission & objectives of ICAN, including those with an operational coastal web atlas, as well as those hoping to design and build a coastal web atlas in the future.
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Small but complex: an atlas for the Belgian coast

Kathy Belpaeme
Coordination Centre, ICZM
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Figure 1: The cover of the 2nd edition of the Belgian coastal atlas

With its 67 km, the Belgian coast seems tiny compared to the neighbouring countries. Its importance and complexity is, however, not less important. Mapping all the uses and users in an atlas proved very helpful, both for the stakeholders and the general public to understand the need for a coordinated management.

The Belgian coastal atlas was first published in book format in 2004, and updated in 2011. The online version was launched in 2005, and revised thoroughly in 2011 and is available in four languages.

 The atlas is appreciated as a portal for the Belgian coast and sea, supporting the ICZM process for a wide range of coastal actors, planners and managers. It provides core information through an interactive website, to help local citizens, stakeholders and policy makers make better decisions or gain a better understanding of the coast. Great attention has been given to an attractive lay-out and the ease of navigating through the website. The information is thematically arranged in 13 chapters, taking the land-sea interface into consideration. Each chapter provides static, ready-to-use maps, coastal data and an interactive map. All static maps can be downloaded in PDF format; the data in excel format. The interactive map contains tools such as measuring, zooming, and printing. Furthermore, the sustainability indicators are integrated into the Coastal Atlas. Twenty-one indicators are grouped in seven chapters, giving an insight to the state of the coast and the sustainability of its development. Examples of indicators are: the age percentage of residents in the coastal communities, the extent of sea level rise or the amount of waste per household. Whenever possible, the indicators are visualised geographically on the interactive map, showing differences between the municipalities.

Figure 2: Use of the Sea example from the Belgian Coastal Explorer interactive map

Since the launch of the second on-line atlas in June 2011, the web statistics tool used has changed. Consequently Web statistics before and after June 2011 cannot be compared. The figure shows the trend for the total number of visits and the number of unique visitors since the launch in June 2011 until website and why. The results of the poll showed that people mainly look for: general info on the coast, the interactive mapping tool and touristic information (= top 3), and that the profile of the visitors is very diverse. Clearly all different sorts of people find their way to the website. The book version of the Coastal Explorer has been officially launched on 1 September 2012. The launch was embedded in the three day workshop of ICAN, the International Coastal Atlas Network, taking advantage of the international scene of this conference.

Figure 3: Use statistics of the Belgian Coastal Explorer with labels for events explaining peaks in usage

It is crucial that the data of the atlas is kept up-to-date. Interaction with data holding and management authorities is very important in achieving this goal. A working group meets yearly to evaluate the atlas. Receiving feedback from the users is also very valuable to highlight any problems or needs.


Smart Atlas Enhances Marine Data Sharing in Africa

Ali Al Othman(Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.), Yassine Lassoued(Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.)
Coastal and Marine Research Centre, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

As part of UNESCO’s International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Ocean Data and Information Network of Africa (ODINAFRICA) project, the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC) has developed a second version of the underlying technology used in the Marine Irish Digital Atlas (MIDA: ). This system called Smart Atlas is being deployed and used by ODINAFRICA partners. Smart Atlas includes up-to-date web mapping technologies to make it easier to explore coastal and marine information through the development of web-enabled, customised Geographic Information System (GIS) that allows users to visualise and identify marine sources of data. A key feature of Smart Atlas is that it promotes and supports distributed marine dataset sharing, which is vital to facilitate marine information exchange between coastal African states.

Figure 1: Smart Atlas View Services. This example shows bathymetry around southern Ireland.

This project follows INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) Directive recommendations for Data discovery, view, and download services. Being conformant to well established web services makes the services developed available to other organisations to consume and view with minimum effort of integration. The new web client mapping application features expanded functionality, plug-in-free animation, and a new architecture with a rich user experience for every browser. The system provides greater accessibility to data and information in the form of a web enabled and customized GIS, data access and data analysis combined with mapping tools for identification of data sources, visualisation, management, and analysis for different use case scenarios.

Smart Atlas is developed using open source software technology with greater performance, a much more simplified, flexible, and customisable interface using the latest JavaScript frameworks and it supports new mapping tools for adding features, zooming, drawing, measuring, and customised printing. Smart Atlas Layers contain views of layers organised in different tabs with built-in base layers, such as Google maps and Open Street maps, overlays that includes the atlas layers and selected layers that contains the list of active layers, sorted by depth, with the possibility of changing the layer order and layer transparency.

Smart Atlas introduces the integration of Catalogue Services for the Web (CSW). The atlas can be configured to connect to metadata catalogue servers (e.g. Geonetwork, ESRI ArcServer, etc.) so that users can search for data layers within the atlas or other metadata stores included in the search through the distributed CSWs.

Metadata provides information about the content, purpose, location of the data, as well as quality and reliability of the data itself. Using standard metadata web protocols makes the mediation and integration between different metadata providers seamless. Standardised metadata supports users in accessing data by using a common set of terminology and metadata elements. This allows for a quick means of data discovery and retrieval from metadata catalogue servers. The metadata based on standards ensures information consistency and quality, and avoids the loss of important knowledge about the data.

Smart Atlas supports distributed Catalog Service for the Web (CSW) search. The search can be done through a simple and advanced search. The user can simply enter free text in a box and hit the search button or do an advanced search using more detailed criteria like controlled vocabulary keywords that support a more standard search based on  keywords pubpublished by standardization organizations. Users can also select a geographic extent for the searched metadata records. Participating metadata server catalogues can be selected by the user to be validated and included in the search.

Figure 2: Example of a summary metadata record returned from a search. Data visualisation and download is also available.

Three methods are used for presenting metadata record search results. These are Summary metadata record, Full metadata record and FAQ Metadata record viewed as a simple FAQ style where basic questions/answers about the metadata record are presented.

Once a particular metadata record is presented, it is also possible to either download the datasets associated with it or overlay these datasets on the mapping area through Web Map Service (WMS) for further analysis. This is designed to enhance spatial information exchange, and promote sharing between different organisations through instant search on local and distributed geospatial catalogues.

The CMRC is making Smart Atlas available for download and use via an open source free software license. Contact Ali Al Othman for further details and for the available support options. A Smart Atlas user training workshop for ODINAFRICA participants will take place  in Nairobi, Kenya from 24 - 28 September 2012.

Para nuestras Costas

Vol, 8, Nr 2 - Now Available!

We are now entering our 9th year publishing the ICAN newsletter. Many thanks to our Editor Andy Sherin!

Please consider preparing an article for the next newsletter that will likely be published in the spring of this year.

Happy New Year!

Photos from CoastGIS 2018

Our friends from CoastGIS 2018 have posted a wonderful gallery of photos, including the recent ICAN mini-workshop:

See how many ICAN members you can spot!