The development of means for biodiversity monitoring and forecasting requires some significant changes in the way data are collected and processed. The frequent absence of interoperability of the existing information systems serving these data is an issue that is well known. A number of international initiatives, the largest one being GEOSS, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, have therefore been put in place to better coordinate the efforts to improve and streamline information systems. Among the main recommendations made by these initiatives, one will find that data should be managed as close as possible to its source; collected once and documented to allow their use for many purposes; easily retrievable and accessible by others; interoperable to allow their combination for multiple purposes; scalable, when applicable, to match other scales; shared and, possibly, processed through common, free open-source software tools. With these recommendations in mind, a Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) is currently developed as a set of distributed databases combined with open, interoperable web services to provide a large variety of end-users including park managers, decision-makers and researchers with means to assess, monitor and forecast the state and pressure of protected areas at the global scale. Beyond the presentation of the benefits of this technical exercise, we will see how the DOPA is used in conservation activities like the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) project funded by the EU to improve the management of protected areas in the ACP area.
The DOPA is currently developed by the Joint Research Centre in collaboration with other international organizations including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Birdlife International, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).