An overview of model integration for environmental applications - Components, frameworks and semantics

In recent years, pressure has increased on environmental scientist/modellers to both undertake good science in an efficient and timely manner, under increasing resource constraints, and also to ensure that the science being performed is immediately relevant to a particular environmental management context. At the same time, environmental management is changing, with increasing requirements for multi-scale and multi-objective assessment and decision making that considers economic and social systems, as well as the ecosystem. Integration of management activities, and also of the modelling undertaken to support management, has become a high priority. To solve the problems of application and integration, knowledge encapsulation in models is being undertaken in a way that both meets the needs for good science, and also provides the conceptual and technical structures required for broader and more integrated application of that knowledge by managers. To support this modelling, tools and technologies from computer science and software engineering are being transferred to applied environmental science fields, and a range of new modelling and software development approaches are being pursued. The papers in this Special Issue provide examples of the integrated modelling concepts and applications that have been, or are being, developed. These include the use of object-oriented concepts, component-based modelling techniques and modelling frameworks, as well as the emerging use of integrated modelling platforms and metadata support for modelling semantics. This paper provides an overview of the science and management imperatives underlying recent developments, discusses the technological and conceptual developments that have taken place, and highlights some of the semantic, operational and process requirements that need to be addressed now that the technological aspects of integrated modelling are well advanced.

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