Sharing maps on the internet
 
With the rapid development of computer technology over the past decade, the capability to rapidly access and process data and information has significantly changed our approach to marine environmental research and management. It is now possible to quickly search for information across multiple sources via the internet, often with the additional capability to download data (physically for local storage, or dynamically) for display and analysis on local machines. Sharing maps on the internet has several significant advantages, both for the organisation that owns the maps, and users of the maps: sharing information can save resources by raising awareness about where data are already available so that additional survey effort is not required; data owners can get publicity for the data they hold; maps can be accessed by staff while they are away from the office intranet or network. With these advantages come some problems: with the escalating number of mapping websites there is often confusion in the user community about where to look for marine data. Making maps available online invites non-expert end-users to use and interpret maps for any purpose, without having to consult habitat specialists or consider the survey methodologies used. The once obvious necessity to communicate with map makers is no longer felt. Before deciding to build a mapping website for your organisation’s mapping data, it is essential to verify whether resources could be saved by contributing your data to an existing mapping website.
 
Desktop geographic information system (GIS) technology allied to emerging international data standards for geospatial interoperability now enables complex visualisations of spatial data, often using data located on both local machines and remote internet servers. This section describes how it is possible to make maps using data available on the internet to compare with local maps, to improve our ability to visualise the marine environment. Making the additional effort to share maps on the internet will significantly expand the seabed habitat resource available to end-users to the mutual benefit of all, and help better manage human activities and deliver international commitments on sustainable development.

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