Geospatial Database for Egypt's Nature Reserves
The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), officially launched in 1982, aims to preserve the country's natural resources, national heritage, and biodiversity within a context of sustainable development. As part of the ministry of environment in Egypt, the agency is concerned with introducing and integrating environmental dimensions in all national policies, plans, and programs relevant to the protection of human health and management of natural resources.
Nature reserves are considered human beings' most valuable inherited treasure. They play a key role in securing and maintaining ecosystem balance, protecting important habitats, building resilience to climate change, providing global food security, maintaining water quality, and conserving natural resources.
Egypt's nature reserves are an important part of Egypt's past, present, and future. But increasingly, climate change has impacted the ability of Egypt's environmental agency to manage and understand biodiversity.
To meet strategic objectives, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), and Strategize It Egypt, a long-standing Esri partner, implemented GIS technologies like remote sensing and imagery allows accurate analysis of areas to help the government make critical decisions about how to preserve these natural areas for the future.
Using GIS tools has helped the EEAA transform operational processes by reducing paper-based systems and improving quality of data collected for decision-makers.
Climate change and geophysical hazards flash floods in particular are increasingly eroding nature reserves in Egypt. To protect these national treasures, a geographic approach is needed to enable the understanding, conservation, and future security of protected areas.
Egypt is well-known for its ancient civilization and monuments like the pyramids, temples, and tombs of the majestic pharaohs. Few tourists experience the country's nature reserves, which are rich with ecosystems and habitats and have cultural value and natural resources. Those are valuable for ecotourism, which helps grow the country's large tourism economy while creating a more sustainable future for the country and surrounding region.
EEAA selected Esri's geographic information system (GIS) technology to enable staff to monitor, track, and document biodiversity in all nature reserves in Egypt. Strategize It Egypt, a long-standing Esri partner, helped the agency create a state-of-the-art solution for conservation by constructing a geospatial database for Egypt's nature reserves.
The new solution has the following objectives:
- Support the strategic objectives of the EEAA regarding the localization of modern technologies and activating digital automation processes in accordance with the objectives of Egypt's Vision 2030 agenda.
- Support decision-making and provide digital environmental information with an accurate and updated spatial dimension, to develop and manage nature reserves in line with sustainable development methodologies.
- Automate the work of environmental monitoring in nature reserves, develop procedures for monitoring documentation of wild organisms and plants in nature reserves, increase operational efficiency, and control the quality of field data.
- Localize modern technologies, and build and manage a central geospatial database in accordance with international quality control standards, which represents an added value to the work of the various sectors of the ministry of environment.
- Build the capacity of the ministry's nature reserves team and concerned departments using knowledge transfer through interactive workshops and field training.
The Strategize It Egypt team started by collecting existing data in both digital and paper-based formats. To maximize the benefit to decision-makers, the team aligned the collected data with Egypt's Vision 2030 and its related eight goals—namely, improved quality of life; equality and inclusion; a robust economy; knowledge and innovation; a sustainable environment; changes to governance; peace and security; and leading stature.
The collected data was then used to design and construct a geospatial database model in accordance with ISO standards. The team envisioned a digital, location-based solution—namely, GIS tools with spatial accuracy and dimension—to be effective in achieving the desired goals. Localized to specific reserves and managed in a central geospatial database that meets international quality control standards, this new solution represents enormous added value to the work of the ministry of environment. This solution also empowers EEAA staff to build their capacity and effectively implement workflows that save time with on-site training.
To ensure effectiveness, the solution includes mapping tools and a web app that enable identification and visualization of patterns and relationships across the boundaries of among the nature reserve areas. Satellite imagery was used to produce two interactive maps:
- Land cover, representing the surface area including water bodies, rocks, vegetation, and agriculture
- Land use, showing the economic activities and cultural value of the nature reserves
This solution design provides environmental information with greater accuracy and speeds up the decision-making process. For the first time, EEAA staff have been able to quickly create maps to help conduct a qualitative assessment in three well-known flash floods areas: South Sinai, North Sinai, and the Red Sea governorates. Moreover, the newly created geodatabase helped the agency generate a drainage network and watersheds for each of those areas. This was followed by morphometric analysis to assess and spot the streams and watersheds that are most likely to be dangerous. The watershed model used in the analysis was developed with GIS software (ArcGIS Pro), which helped extract surface drainage characteristics based on elevation data. Predictive flood analysis was also conducted using data that was previously captured.
A geographic approach capitalizes on the available data and provides location intelligence—insights that empower real-time understanding and transform decision-making. This solution is a powerful tool to help Egypt achieve its sustainable development goals while protecting its nature reserves and increasing biodiversity and conservation efforts.
The integration of spatial technologies is fundamentally changing operational processes in both the public and private sectors. It also involves a cultural change to embrace technology that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo and experiment with new approaches to solving problems. By transforming old paper-based processes and data collection into a geodatabase, decision-makers now have clear insight into what is being done in reserve areas as well as when and where the work is being done.
Transforming old paperwork into a smart form requires the restructure of data layers to reconcile field differences between input so that key decision-makers have insight into actions being taken in the reserve areas.
By using Esri's GIS products—namely, ArcGIS Survey123, ArcGIS Field Maps, and ArcGIS QuicCapture—the Strategize It Egypt team was able to create 13 categories of forms that display four key performance indicators to protecting nature reserves. Decision-makers now have insight into the following:
- Day-to-Day Management—Field observations about each site and predefined aspects with autocaptured location data
- Environmental Impact Monitoring—Exclusive reports for each stakeholder
- Biodiversity Tracking—The use of dashboards for focusing on two main programs: wild animals and vegetation, and marine observations
- Tracking and Monitoring Business Activities—Understanding what people enjoy in the natural reserve areas
The new solution supports the EEAA team in creating an environment of increased productivity by building, developing, collecting, updating, and managing the geographic data of Egypt's nature reserves. As climate and biodiversity concerns are at the forefront of our lives, this geospatial database for Egypt's Natural Reserves solution will encourage more governments, regionally and globally, to see the value of GIS in helping shape a more sustainable planet.