ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services

ARIES is a networked software technology that redefines ecosystem service assessment and valuation for decision-making. The ARIES approach to mapping natural capital, natural processes, human beneficiaries, and service flows to society is a powerful new way to visualize, value, and manage the ecosystems on which the human economy and well-being depend.

A better way to model ecosystem services

ARIES maps the agents of provision of ecosystem services (sources), their beneficiaries (use), and any biophysical features that can deplete service flows (sinks) automatically choosing the best available models and data. Through artificial intelligence and innovative semantic modeling, ARIES assembles spatial data and expert-contributed model components – deterministic or probabilistic – to quantify and map ecosystem services, at the appropriate spatial scales and specifically for each ecological and socio-economic context.

An ecosystem of models

Models and data used in ARIES are stored on an expanding semantic web. While users can provide their own data and models, an extensible network hosts data, models and model services that are assembled according to context. In this kind of collaborative modelling:

  1. Models and data are developed by the individual, independent experts;
  2. Open source technology allows researchers and institutions to add models and data to the network;
  3. Models and data can be made available to all users or restricted communities;
  4. Artificial Intelligence negotiates the most appropriate models to solve user queries;
  5. Transparent documentation can be generated for all the models used and their integrated results.

Two-step rapid assessment

On the user side, ARIES enables a simple, two-step ecosystem service assessment process. Client software (desktop & soon web-based) allows modeling with minimal configuration and training. After users are logged into the network (through a secure certificate), modeling reduces to

  • Step 1: set the context (for example, searching for a watershed name, or drawing a region on an online map)
  • Step 2: find a concept representing the issue of interest using free-form search, and drop it on the context to observe it.

At that point, ARIES uses its internal knowledge and the data and models on the network to creates agents and processes, connect them into a flow network, and produce a complete assessment of socio-ecological structure and function in the context.

An adaptive modeling technology

Keeping it simple, but realistic

ARIES is an artificial intelligent modeler rather than a single model or collection of models. ARIES chooses ecological process models where appropriate, and turns to simpler models where process models do not exist or are inadequate. Based on a simple user query, ARIES builds all the agents involved in the nature/society interaction, connects them into a flow network, and creates the best possible models for each agent and connection. The result is a detailed, adaptive, and dynamic assessment of  how nature provides benefits to people.

OPEN IEEM: Linking ecosystem services to economic models for Latin America and the Caribbean

The ARIES team is collaborating with the Interamerican Development Bank to link ecosystem service models with economic (computable general equilibrium) models. The OPEN Integrated Economic-Environmental Modeling platform (OPEN IEEM) will dynamically link economic...

ARIES is Coming!

2019 is the year in which Game of Thrones comes to a close and ARIES (@aries_project) goes public, so we thought, what the heck, let's go the extra mile! Now we can run ecosystem services models in Westeros, and soon you can too. Seriously, this year we are planning...

Modelling Beneficiaries with CSIR South Africa

The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) group at the CSIR (South Africa) is an interdisciplinary, applied research group with expertise in research related to understanding and enhancing the governance of ecosystem services and social-ecological...

Running ecosystem service models using ARIES’ drag-and-drop interface

The ARIES team is about to hit two very important milestones. First, as of June 2018 we've submitted our first article on globally customizable ecosystem service (ES) models - a first batch of five ecosystem service models (plus a spatial multicriteria...

What is the semantic web, and why could it be a game changer for ecosystem services?

Toward faster, better, cheaper ecosystem service assessments “It’s just semantics” – Easy way to end a minor disagreement about what to call something “Data collection and preparation takes up 60% of the time needed for environmental modeling” – apocryphal...

1-week ARIES training in October 2018

The International Spring University (ISU), an initiative of the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), announces a 1-week training on Ecosystem Services Modeling, to be held in Bilbao, 8th – 12th October 2018. The training will follow a shorter format for...

Interdisciplinarity: some potential pitfalls on the route to success

For many years, academia was often considered to operate within an ivory tower, isolated from the real world and its problems. Furthermore, within this ivory tower academics carved out different rooms, building silos in which different subjects could be pursued...

Masterclass 2017

In November 2017, the ARIES team in Bilbao organized a follow-up course on the ARIES ecosystem services model and integrated semantic modelling. From the perspective of an ecosystem services researcher who participated in the International Spring University on...

New publication describes underpinning semantics for ARIES & integrated environmental modelling

Semantics provide common language to consistently describe scientific phenomena and the relationships between them. While scientists have successfully developed common vocabularies in individual fields (the periodic table in chemistry to the scientific names of...

ARIES training in 2017 and beyond: diversifying users

For the last four years we've been running 2-week intensive modeling schools in Bilbao, plus a small number of dedicated training events (usually concentrating on specific services or contexts) in various locations. As every previous participant knows, these...

Workshop: Understanding multiscale linkages in ecosystem services assessment using ARIES platform

ICIMOD is an international organization dedicated to mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, which extends 3,500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. It is the source of ten large Asian...

Equipping early career researchers with tools for evaluating ecosystem services which underpin food and water security

Ecosystem services underpin food and water security and are essential to people’s livelihoods, especially in Africa. The challenges of evaluating and managing ecosystem services in natural and agricultural systems require interdisciplinary methods which combine...

ARIESteam @ iEMSs2016

Hi all, we recently participated to the conference of Environmental Modelling & Software in Toulouse, July 10-14,  and it was a great occasion to meet colleagues and friends, and present our works. I personally presented a working paper on the human dimension of...

ISU 2016

Between 2nd and 13th of May, we ran the fourth edition of the International Spring University (ISU; our annual 2-week intensive course that trains practitioners and scientists in how to use k.LAB and ARIES). Many things were new about this edition (a new version of...

ARIES Team Hackathon

Last December 2015 (from 7th to 18th) Simon Willcock, from the University of Southampton, joined some members of the BC3 team in Bilbao (Ferdinando Villa, Stefano Balbi and Javier Martínez-López) to spend two weeks coding together. The first week was devoted to work...

Royal Society Pairing Scheme 2015

Dr Simon Willcock is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Southampton. Last November, Simon spent a week in Westminster as part of the Royal Society’s pairing scheme. As the Royal Society get set to open applications for this year’s scheme, Simon shares his...

December 2015 webinar

The webinar has completed, the recording is available below. Posted by ARIES: ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services on Friday, December 4, 2015

Greetings from Stellenbosch

Simon Willcock, 13/11/15 Greetings from Stellenbosch, South Africa! It is the last day of the 8th Ecosystem Service Partnership conference and I am taking a quick break from the interesting talks to give you a quick update on what has been going on this week....

Modeling on the semantic web

ARIES is based on the radically novel k.LAB technology, which allows models and data to be contributed by independent researchers, hosted on a network, and automatically assembled into model workflows following a user’s simple. The technology, which can be applied beyond the field of ecosystem services, is the first operational example of semantically integrated, distributed, collaborative modeling. As an international network of scientific collaborators contribute data and models, the ARIES system grows by itself, and each new assessment automatically adopts the best data and models available. In the next year, users will be able to not only develop, but also run models directly from the world wide web, enabling a simple, two-step modeling workflow suitable for non-technical users, such as decision makers and their staff.