Accessing Taiwan’s Long-term Environmental Data with Ease
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan is an island country rich in natural resources. On the convergence area of tropical and subtropical climate, there are hundreds of mountains with an elevation of more than 3000 meters high, rolling hills and vast plains on this beautiful island. All of these diverse landscapes create various types of climate and ecosystems. On the other hand, with the booming population and economic development in Taiwan, the exploitation and destruction of natural resources have become more and more serious recently. In the past, due to the policy of economic development, authorities for environmental management often belong to different ministries. For example, the Water Resources Agency is subordinate to the Ministry of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Central Weather Bureau is under the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, and the Forestry Bureau belongs to the Council of Agriculture. Because the environmental data is collected and managed by different government agencies respectively, it becomes an obstruction to comprehensive policy making. Also, this will be inconvenient for researchers to apply data and conduct academic researches.
Therefore, to improve the situation, reorganization and coalition of administrative departments are undergoing in recent years. Following this trend, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has embarked on an information service project, hoping to use the advanced cloud technology to store and manage the long-term data of environmental resources. By this system, the subsequent value-added applications and the data analyses will become much easier.
As mentioned above, to integrate the large data of environmental resources from all associated administrative departments, the EPA has launched a project called “Environmental Data Cloud” to integrate, store and manage the data more efficiently as well as to lay the foundation for further applications. The design of Environmental Data Cloud includes several subsystems. Among these subsystems, the Central Data Exchange system (CDX) is the core system for data management. When data is uploaded by each administrative department, the CDX will organize and designate the data. A significant portion of it will be assigned to the Environment Resource Database (ERDB) for storage, and the ERDB will download and update the data from CDX periodically. In some datasets, the frequency of data update is once a day.
Under the project of Environmental Data Cloud, EPA built up the ERDB and its web portal in 2014. With the involvement of Supergeo Project Team in last year, the capability and data supply of ERDB has been significantly improved. Now, this platform can truly serve as an integrated database for Environmental Data, enabling users to find what they want with ease. The current design of ERDB can be separated into two parts: First, it has a platform for real-time data querying and displaying. Users can search data by the observation station (point), river basin (line), or the county name (polygon). When the user is searching data by the observation station or the river basin, the system will show the location of the observation station on the map and the recent environmental monitoring data. In the other case, if the user is searching by the county name, the system will import the data from the stations in the same county and make comparisons, which is very convenient. The second part of ERDB is the platform for downloading environmental data. Users can select any favorable period and download the long-term monitoring data for further analysis. Now, there are 240 datasets in ERDB, including data on the atmosphere, rivers, geology, forests, ecology, pollution, and so on. The average duration of data collection is about 12 years. So far, there are about 200 million environmental data online. What even better is users can download the data directly from ERDB without any applications beforehand. In other words, all citizens can make use of the rich environmental data without any costs.
Fig.1 Searching and displaying data by observation stations
Fig.2 Searching and displaying data by counties
Fig.3 The interface for downloading environmental data
Establishing an environmental resources database that includes long-term data not only can help the government to make better policies and facilitate academic researches but also can be applied to various industries. For example, base on these comprehensive environmental data, banks and insurance companies can estimate the disaster risk more precisely; construction firms can select more appropriate building materials; urban developing specialists can make smarter regional planning. Furthermore, users can integrate socio-economic data like population distribution or land use data to predict various phenomena and make actionable plans.