Use the future to build the present
Ecological Models
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

3.2.2Ecological Models

For understandable and entirely valid reasons, research has focussed on harvesting colossal amounts of observational physical data to feed into our climate models. The “biological layer” of our planet, however, remains under-sensed and less adequately modelled. For example, our observations of soils, their dynamism and the interactions of their microorganisms, are in many respects low-resolution.7 Ecological modelling, the attempt to understand interactions and feedback mechanisms that shape ecosystems at a variety of scales, requires a full range of biological sensing platforms that have not yet been fully developed and deployed.
This situation is beginning to change. Advances in sensor technology (biological observations through molecular/genomic, acoustic, and imaging platforms) and computing power mean that ecological models are poised for rapid progress. These models start with scientifically tractable island ecosystems. The Island Digital Ecosystem Avatars (IDEA) Consortium is creating such a model for the intensively studied island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia, simulating links and feedbacks between climate, biodiversity, environment, and human activities across land and sea.8 As improved models for the more complex biological world are built, they will become possible for more places and at ever larger scales. While ecological simulations (avatars) will never have the predictive power possible for physical systems, machines or the built environment (twins), they will provide valuable guidance helping society evaluate likely opportunities and risks.

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

Developers create new sensing platforms

Technologies to measure additional key genetic, population, community and ecosystem attributes are developed or refined, and multi-scale sensing platforms begin to be deployed to produce a nascent, interconnected global network of biological observatories, expanding on the set of existing scientific field sites and sensor platforms — such as the International Long-term Ecological Research Network — that already are beginning to span from local to regional to ocean basin scales.9

10-yearhorizon

We begin to predict ecosystem feedbacks

Fueled by data streams from the maturing global observatory network, advanced dynamic ecological models emerge that adequately predict ecosystem feedbacks, enabling the forecast of rippling effects through ecosystems. Quantitative ‘risk management’ tools will be developed for predicting ecosystem vulnerabilities and identifying tipping points and state transitions to inform sustainability policy.

25-yearhorizon

Global observing systems come online

The integration of marine and terrestrial platforms into truly global observing systems is achieved. Ecological observations and models are fully incorporated into digital avatars ranging in complexity and spatial scale that can be used for scenario modelling that powerfully support policy- and decision-making.

Ecological Models - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

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