ERCIM News No.34 - July 1998

Environmental Modelling and Simulation Research

by Achim Sydow

Information technology has played an increasing role in the planning and controlling of environmental issues at different scales and within various time spans. It has been a long journey from the establishment of ecology as a science dealing with the relations of organisms to their environment (Haeckel, 1866) and the definition of the concept of ecosystems (Tansley, 1935), to the development of our field of computational ecology. Rapid developments in information technology made the establishment of computational ecology possible and continue to accompany our research endeavours.

Environmental systems consisting of geophysical and geochemical elements, abiotic factor complexes (atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere) and biotic elements (growth processes, population dynamics) are real complex systems. Information technology has succeeded in developing adequate tools for modelling, simulation, planning and decision support for environmental protection. As a result, education aimed toward transmitting an understanding of environmental systems is nowadays unthinkable without the use of computer techniques.

Considerable progress has been reached in a number of different research areas:

Interdisciplinary co-operation has benefited from computer networking. Parallel computation greatly assists in the efficient analysis of large scale and complex environmental systems. Weather and ozone forecasts are based on parallel computation. Visualization techniques allow comprehensive overviews and thus assist decision support. Simulation gives numerical insight into the behaviour of complex environmental systems. Intelligent information technologies (neuronal nets, evolution strategies, expert systems) support modelling should relevant background structures from the natural sciences be unavailable. These information technologies can also assist data mining. Algorithms for optimization and poly-optimization provide a helpful aid for dealing with conflict situations which can evolve between the areas of ecology, economics and the needs of society.

The articles in this issue of ERCIM-News reflect the wide range of research and applications conducted within the ERCIM community in the field of environmental modelling and simulation:

The ERCIM working group Environ-mental Modelling provides a platform for the discussion of results in this area and promotes further research. In addition to national research programmes the European Commission is actively supporting this research.

Please contact:

Achim Sydow - GMD
Working Group chairman
Tel: +49 30 6392 1813
E-mail: sydow@first.gmd.de

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