Geospatial Data for Marine Protected Areas
Scientific attention to the oceans has been gaining strength over the past few years and with it a recognized need for expanding the spatial data covering the oceans. A few organizations are leading the way in providing these resources. For example, registering on this website allows access to the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), which includes all nationally designated (such as national parks and nature reserves) and internationally recognized protected areas (such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, including protected areas in the oceans. As another example, the Protected Planet site allows individual preserves to be downloaded as KMZ, CSV, and shapefiles.
A global dataset of warm water coral reefs is maintained by the UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, but as of this writing, their ArcGIS Online map link was broken and it was much easier on the site to find books rather than spatial data. I found the portal maintained by Reefbase to be much easier to use, including point data for monitoring sites, reef locations, and even coral diseases. However, unfortunately, the data are only available in Excel or CSV formats: Therefore, they need a bit of tinkering to get them into a GIS.
Despite the difficulties that some of these sites pose, the amount and variety of protected area spatial data for the oceans is growing. And just in time, too, as it is needed now more than ever.