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eHabitat, a multi-purpose Web Processing service for ecological modelling

IES scientists co-authored an article published in Environmental Modelling & Software in March 2013, which describes eHabitat, a basic Web Processing Service (WPS) for computing the likelihood of finding ecosystems with equal properties to those of a particular region or niche area. When combined with other services providing data on climate change, for instance, eHabitat can be used for ecological forecasting and help decision makers assess different strategies when choosing potential protected areas. eHabitat is one of the few practical implementations of the WPS standards for Web-based geospatial modelling within the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which encourages data sharing and the publication and combination of models and interoperable research infrastructures in order to handle complex multi-disciplinary questions. It is based on the “Model Web”, which encourages the practical development of a distributed, multi-disciplinary network of independent, interoperating models and databases that communicate and interact with each other through the web.

eHabitat is the core modelling service of the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA), which is being developed at the JRC in collaboration with organisations including the Global Biodiversity Information System (GBIF), the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Birdlife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). DOPA aims to combine distributed databases with open, interoperable web services to help users assess the state of protected areas worldwide. eHabitat is a relatively simple and versatile modelling service which brings enough flexibility to DOPA to enable it to carry out ecological forecasting and consider alternative future scenarios using input from a variety of sources. Because of its simplicity, eHabitat can be re-used for a variety of purposes, from socio-economic modelling and ecological forecasting to the optimisation of environmental monitoring networks.

Conceptual design of eHabitat, a Web Processing Service (WPS) designed to identify similar properties from different thematic datasets. eHabitat allows end-users to characterise ecosystems but also to assess changes considering different environmental scenarios.

The article presents the architecture of eHabitat and gives two case study examples of how it can be used in forecasting the impact of climate change on the protected UNESCO site of Tassili n’Ajjer in Algeria, and the ecological niche of the Black Harrier, an endangered species of bird in Africa. It also outlines the theoretical limitations and possibilities for the extension of eHabitat to a variety of use cases.

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