Ontologies for the Design of Ecosystems

Ontologies for the Design of Ecosystems

Luigi Ceccaroni (Barcelona Digital Technology Centre (BDigital), Spain) and Luis Oliva (Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0327-1.ch009

Abstract

Environmental regulations require that land development decisions have to be accompanied by clear, accountable decision-making processes to communicate to the possible public repercussions of development. The suitability mapping approach is widely adopted to fill this need. However, in typical applications of suitability mapping, the dynamics and interrelatedness of ecosystems’ structure and processes are often overlooked. Environmental assessment procedures require scientists and designers to join forces, and the demand for shared concepts and semantic language is growing. Better ways of interpreting and incorporating ecological principles, especially those that emphasize the probabilistic, dynamic nature of nature, into ecosystem design and planning are needed. This chapter presents guidelines and experiences about the modeling and implementation of utility ontologies for the design of ecosystems, together with a case study. Utility ontologies are knowledge representations that include general concepts that most services need to use to represent spatial and temporal data.
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Introduction

Environmental regulations in Europe and the United States require that land development decisions have to be accompanied by environmental assessment procedures and clear, accountable decision-making processes to communicate to the public possible repercussions of development. Ian McHarg’s suitability mapping (or suitability modeling) approach, as prescribed in the 1969 Design with Nature, is widely adopted to fill this need (McHarg, 1995). The dynamics and interrelatedness of ecosystems’ structure and processes are often overlooked, however, in typical applications of suitability mapping.

Environmental assessment procedures require scientists and designer1 to join forces, and the demand for shared concepts and semantic language is growing. Better ways of interpreting and incorporating ecological principles, especially those that emphasize the probabilistic, dynamic nature of nature, into ecosystem design and planning are needed. Likewise, better communication of the design process and examples by which ecological principles are successfully integrated into design are also needed to inspire designers and scientists alike.

Designers have to represent geographic space and ecological processes operating at a variety of scales, and link this representation to human values if they are to create durable, responsible, beneficial designs. This can be facilitated in three ways:

  • By a design method based on Alfred North Whitehead’s stages of learning that involves different disciplines as mutually inclusive elements (Whitehead, 1967)

  • By a design method based on Robert Rodale’s concept of regenerative; regenerative design means replacing the present linear system of throughput flows with cyclical flows at sources, consumption centers and sinks (Lyle, 2008)

  • By a design based on the modeling and implementation of formal ontologies

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