ARIES: ARtifical Intelligence for Ecosystem Services
ARIES redefines ecosystem services assessment and valuation in decision-making. The ARIES approach to mapping benefits, beneficiaries, and service flows is a powerful new way to visualize, and manage the ecosystems on which the human economy and well-being depend.
ARIES is a suite of applications, all delivered to end users through the Web. All applications have been designed with the help of professional usability engineers, and are accessible through a standard web browser. Along with the main toolkit (Ecosystem Services Explorer, Valuation Database, and Biodiversity Explorer), custom ARIES interfaces can be built to simplify use by specific groups of end users. ARIES can help improve our understanding of the value to humans of conserving high biodiversity areas. At the same time, it can help conservation planning by identifying crucial areas to protect the flow of ecosystem services to their beneficiaries.
A modeling platform
ARIES is a modeling platform rather than a single model or collection of models. ARIES is capable of incorporating existing ecological process models where appropriate, and turns to ad hoc models where existing process models do not exist or are inadequate for local contexts. Agent-based models are used to simulate ecosystem service flows.
Ad hoc models
ARIES’ ad hoc models are probabilistic, Bayesian models, which offer the advantages of explicitly conveying uncertainty and being capable of operating in data-scarce conditions. Rather than specifying the equations that define the relationships between model variables, as is done in deterministic modeling, ARIES is capable of using the data to derive the relationships between variables, learning these relationships, and applying results to data-scarce conditions.
Many researchers have noted that provision and use of ecosystem services take place at different temporal and spatial scales. Yet aside from hydrologic ecosystem service models, researchers have too often ignored the fact that the location of ecosystems, their human beneficiaries, and the biophysical nature of ecosystem service flows affect how much of a service is actually used by people. ARIES explicitly accounts for the spatial dynamics of ecosystem services.
ARIES is accessible from any internet browser, with all functions handled remotely and returned to the user via a web interface. Data and model storage, data transformations, model runs, and reporting of results take place behind the scenes without the need to purchase and gain proficiency using commercial GIS or modeling software.
ARIES includes models tailored to reflect local ecological and socioeconomic conditions relevant to ecosystem service provision and use. Local case studies typically include data at finer spatial resolution or that better describes local conditions. Users interested in developing new case studies will eventually be able to edit the models and submit local GIS data for their case study directly to the system. Until these features are available, users interested in developing local case studies should firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss potential partnership or training opportunities in developing new case studies.
ARIES will eventually include generalized global models for most ecosystem services to describe their provision, use, and spatial dynamics. Global models will be supported by corresponding pre-loaded global datasets (typically ranging from 1 degree2 to 1 km2 in spatial resolution).