The establishment of Regional Observatories for Protected Areas and Biodiversity is a central component of the BIOPAMA objective of building capacity to improve decision-making related to protected area management and biodiversity conservation (terrestrial and marine). The term Observatory is used across the world in different contexts; in the case of BIOPAMA, the term reflects the objective of providing the best available scientific data, traditional knowledge, and lessons learned from field activities.
The Observatories – now being referred to with names appropriate to the different regions - also serve as knowledge centres for the regions; facilitate networking of experts and institutions; and coordinate technical and policy support to national agencies and regional organizations.
The Observatories will focus on networking and communications between stakeholders, and providing access to biodiversity conservation and protected area data and information to support management decisions and policy processes. BIOPAMA will primarily engage with national and regional level agencies and institutions, with additional targeted interaction with protected area managers.
A key feature of each Observatory is a Regional Reference Information System (RRIS). The RRIS integrates a diverse range of relevant protected area and biodiversity data and information, using open source web services. The BIOPAMA RRIS can be accessed at rris.biopama.org
Each Observatory will host a version of the Regional Reference Information System customised to regional information needs and priorities.
The Observatory for West and Central Africa focuses on analyzing the context of protected areas and improving management performance through a planning and monitoring tool for the management of protected areas and protected areas systems. This tool comes in the form of a digital form providing a protocol for the detailed collection and analysis of data relating to the six dimensions of the IUCN management performance monitoring (context, impact, outcomes, process, inputs, planning) for each site and for all hierarchical organizational levels (national systems, networks, regional systems). The collection and analysis of the information with the staff of the protected areas and protected areas national agencies in 50 to 80 protected areas in 2015 will be supported by a network of regional coaches coming from national agencies, who will support the protected areas managers in their work.
The vision for the Observatories is to give a stronger voice to biodiversity and protected areas in the planning processes and ensure that biodiversity concerns are integrated across sectors, in particular extractive industries, agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure development. The Eastern & Southern African Region Observatory will be deployed through four planned nodes that will be linked to the Regional Economic Commissions in the region over time. The aim is to ensure that the information available through the Observatories is relevant to the needs in each of the sub-regions.
The first node in the region is hosted by the East African Community, with a second node currently in negotiation with the Southern African Development Community. The latter will link with existing initiatives focussed on Transfrontier Conservation Areas and initially be a hub for engagement and information for the TFCA community. Discussions with the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD, Horn of Africa subregion) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) will be pursued over the next months.
Linking Data to Better Decisions: caribbean-rris.biopama.org
The Caribbean Protected Areas Gateway is hosted by the University of West Indies (UWI) and located in the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), a department within the Faculty of Science and Technology at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. The Caribbean Gateway will maintain a Regional Reference Information System (RRIS) for the region – a gateway to data and tools for analysis for biodiversity and protected area management. The data and tools span several themes, including marine and terrestrial ecosystems, species and habitats, ecosystem services, livelihoods, pressures and threats, and management and governance, as well as providing information on training opportunities, and a forum for discussions.
Connecting people, knowledge and information
The Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) hosts the BIOPAMA Pacific RRIS, embedded within the Pacific Islands Protected Areas Portal (PIPAP) - a regional information exchange hub for protected areas practitioners. Drawing on relevant information from existing information platforms within SPREP, as well as periodically-updated information from Member countries and complementary regional initiatives, the PIPAP aims to enable access to a comprehensive information database for Pacific protected areas.