ICZM and Information Systems
The coastal zone is particularly valuable as it concentrates a diversity of natural habitats and a wide range of resources. They are particularly significant and delicate from an ecological viewpoint as they act as the border area between land and sea and should be managed with consciousness. The sustainable development of coastal areas is constrained by the disagreement of interests and the complication of jurisdiction between the diverse authorities dealing with the regulation of different activities and utilization of coastal resources.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) focuses on co-ordinating these activities and actions together within a combined management plan and involves the elaboration of a strategic plan for the coastal area shaping the general objectives and policies to accomplish sustainable development. Furthermore area-specific management plans and actions for both land and sea are decided in accordance with the strategic plan. In most cases the implementation of these plans and actions demands the mobilization of different policy and administrative mechanisms, procedures and controls as well as legal institutional and financial requirements. The long-term management strategy is transformed into definite actions and projects during the implementation phase and engage regulatory instruments that support the sustainable management of coastal activities. One can mention land-use planning, building regulations, licensing activities based on environmental impact assessment, construction guidelines for the coastline, conservation regulations and directives, etc.
All people involved in ICZM agree that the overall process should be supplemented by monitoring and a continuous information feedback. At this phase the use of information systems and technology could be proved indispensable. Electronic Data Processing, Transaction Processing Systems, Management Information Systems, Office Automation Systems, Decision Support Systems (DSS), Expert Systems (ES) as well as Geographic Information Systems Geographical Information System (GIS) and Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) are all Computer Based Information Systems and support in different ways the overall ICZM process. Although a fundamental feature of any information system for successful management is precision and simplicity, the complex patterns of interactions between natural ecosystems and human actions taking place on the coastal zone, call for complex and integrated approaches.
The differentiation and diversification in the scales of the complex patterns of interactions in space make the use of GIS ideal for coastal management purposes while the necessity for effectiveness and efficiency during the decision making process necessitate the use of DSS. Although the facility of GIS to store, handle and analyze spatial data (geographical and attribute) together with their real time performance advance the decision making process they are mainly data processing systems and thus they don’t have the ability to deal with complex problems. The linkage, combination, intersection etc of different layers for the extraction of the objective in parallel with the built-in capability of algebraic operations makes GIS a necessary tool for the direct evaluation of the management process but their analytical power is limited and can not provide enough support.
SDSSs are systems that focus on decisions and decision theory focuses on finding the best solution to any problem. The problems can be structured, semi-structured (lossely structured) or unstructured. In most cases the ICZM process implies conflicting interests and presents multidimensional characteristics where a distinct criterion is not sufficient and various criteria are needed. SDSSs can handle the majority of situations through the utilization of spatial information and knowledge. Scenario development, spatial analysis, advanced modelling require procedural knowledge while the declarative knowledge is essential for representing human know-how, knowledge and experience. The embodiment of artificial intelligence (AI) methods and techniques appear that secures the simultaneous utilization of declarative and procedural knowledge. Moreover it grants decision makers the ability to intelligently control the overall ICZM process and utilize all available information, data and knowledge. The leading edge of intelligent SDSS is moving towards clever knowledge-based systems and combinations of neural networks, fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms and hybrid systems.
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