The Ecosystem Services Identification and Inventory (ESII) Field App helps anyone interested in learning more about nature collect environmental data so that they can understand the natural benefits (ecosystem services) provided by the environment.
Runs offline: partially
Last update: iOS 28/11/2016 (v. 1.0.6)
- Article updated on 16/05/2016 after the update of models made by ESII
- Article updated on 11/02/2017
ESII Tool is an application designed to identify and measure the benefits produced by nature, known as ecosystem services, allowing incorporate its value in the decision making process. With the information provided by this tool, in addition to better understand ecosystems processes, the efforts to restore natural spaces can be analyzed, running different scenarios, setting the cost-benefit of different options of green infrastructures, etc. The ecosystem services currently included are noise attenuation, visual screening, nitrogen and particulates removal, climate regulation, carbon sequestration, erosion control, mass wasting, flood mitigation, water quality control (nitrogen and sediment) and the control of provisioning and volume of water.
ESII has two workspaces: the web interface, particularly suitable for opening the user account and the delimitation of areas; and the mobile application, designed to collect field data and which with a previous synchronization with the project data entered via the web, can work without internet connection.
After opening a user account (you have to fill some fields such as username, password, email, etc.), you can create a new site to control it. In order to understand it better, this area would be similar to a plot within which another subzones are defined: DCEs or portions of the site that will be evaluated, and map units, delimited habitats in reference to which environmental data are collected. The tool supports geotiff and shp files, but only as a reference to draw upon them the boundaries of the different zones.
To test this application has been selected a random zone corresponding to the Yellowstone National Park (see first image) in which have been delimited a site (black border), a DCE (blue border) and two map units (lake and a nearby wetland). The site and the DCE are delimited from the web application, where you can also characterize them through a battery of questions (units are in USCS). Work areas can be mapped both the iPad (maps can be downloaded for an offline use) and from a computer. The description of the main features of a map unit is done through a questionnaire that includes questions related to, for example, the predominant type of vegetation, substrate type or degree of human intervention (In the pictures you can see both the mobile version as for the computer).
Based on all the data collected and after the information is synchronized, ESII Tool runs a model that gives as a result an assessment of ecosystem services.
Images: Screenshots 11/05/2016. © EcoMetrix Solutions Group
The ecosystems provide a number of services that, according to a publication of the European Union, can be pinpointed in four types: provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services and supporting services. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation jeopardizes the continuity of these benefits, so that more and more voices advocate for a payment system known as Payment for Environmental Services (PES), which would amount to take into account the cost of its degradation, for example.
The problem involved in this system is the need to quantify or represent the benefits and costs in a measurable way, so ESII Tool represents in this sense a significant advance, although does not make a monetary quantification, since among its characteristics, there is the possibility of making comparative analyzes between baseline and a final stage. At the moment, it’s a tool designed for its preferred use in the US (for its utilization in other areas is necessary to seek alternative databases relating to certain parameters), so the values used in this analysis are not real. However, and after the review of the models made by ESII on 13/05/2016, it has been verified that the analysis now works perfectly (initially had detected a fault in its operation because the size of the areas which had been taken into account in the models was very small). The application has a wealth of information on its website (especially recommended this video of 11 min 50 sec), being in general terms a tool that has a broad prospects for development, as confirm the several emails crossed with the application staff. For example, they have confirmed that they are working to include new options in the application, for example, the ability to archive sites that are not being monitored. With regard to the need to enter the password each time you enter the application, they comment that they have not included an option to remember passwords because one of the objectives of the tool is to have a corporate use (enterprises, institutions , etc.). As a proposal for improvement, it would be interesting to be able to change units to metric, aspect already considered by the own team.