Marine GIS


Marine Geographic Information System (Marine GIS) is a specialized branch of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that is tailored specifically to the marine environment. Marine GIS is specifically developed to capture, manage, analyze, and visualize geographic data associated with oceanic and coastal areas. It incorporates spatial reference data, such as bathymetric and hydrographic data, along with other oceanographic elements such as currents, waves, and sea surface temperatures, into its system.

What is Marine GIS?

Marine GIS is a powerful tool used by oceanographers, marine biologists, environmental scientists, and those involved in maritime planning and management. It aids in the visual representation, analysis and interpretation of marine data to support decision-making processes in marine resource management, maritime navigation, fisheries, and marine conservation efforts.

One of the unique aspects of Marine GIS is its inherent three-dimensional nature. Unlike terrestrial GIS that mostly deals with 2-dimensional data - land and surface - Marine GIS includes an additional depth component, enabling a 3-dimensional analysis of the marine environment. This is particularly helpful in tasks like mapping submarine terrains, analyzing water column properties, and understanding marine biological habitats.

Another unique contribution of the Marine GIS is its ability to handle and analyze time-varying data. This includes tidal changes, sea level rises, current variations, etc., which are crucial factors to consider in the maritime environment.


What are some applications of Marine GIS?

Applications of Marine GIS span a wide variety of fields, like marine conservation where it helps to plan and manage marine protected areas. It is used in the planning and management of fisheries to identify and track fish populations, assist in oil spill response to visualize the spread of oil and recommended clean-up areas, in maritime navigation to create safe and efficient navigation routes and in marine archaeology to locate and study underwater archaeological sites.

What are the data sources for Marine GIS?

Data sources for Marine GIS include bathymetric and hydrographic surveys, satellite remote sensing data, in-situ observations from vessels, buoys, or underwater vehicles, and outputs from ocean circulation or ecosystem models.

Why is the 'time dimension' important in Marine GIS?

Marine environments are highly dynamic, subjected to constant change. The inclusion of the 'time dimension' in Marine GIS makes it possible to repeat geospatial analyses over different time intervals, allowing to track changes and identify trends or patterns over time.

What is the difference between terrestrial and marine GIS?

Whilst both terrestrial and marine GIS serve to manage, analyze and visualize spatial data, they are distinctive in the nature of the environment they analyze. Terrestrial GIS mainly focuses on land-based areas while Marine GIS focuses on oceanic and coastal environments. Marine GIS is also unique in its requirement to incorporate a third (depth) dimension and time-varying data into its analyses, unlike terrestrial GIS which is predominantly two-dimensional.

What are the challenges in using Marine GIS?

One of the main challenges in using GIS in a marine context relates to the complexity and dynamic nature of the marine environment which requires advanced modeling techniques. The other challenges include the technical difficulties and costs associated with collecting detailed marine data, especially in deep and distant ocean areas, and issues with data interoperability due to the variety of data formats and standards used in marine data collection.

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