Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Policy support system with user manual and on-line help documentation

Scientific result and Key innovative features:
The research and development work carried out in the project has lead to a prototype version of a Decision Support System aimed at integrated planning and policy support at the watershed level in Mediterranean regions prone to desertification and land degradation. This information system features an integrated model representing the main processes leading to and affected by desertification. Processes included are among others: climate scenarios and weather generator, soil, surface and aquifer hydrology, salinisation, erosion, plant growth, transitions in natural vegetation types, water management, farmers decision making, crop selection, and urban land uses.

The models are spatially-dynamic and represent processes at the appropriate spatial scales ranging from the watershed level to the 1 ha plot, as well as the appropriate temporal scales varying from daily to the yearly time steps. The system enables evaluating the effects of autonomous dynamics, policy measures and external scenarios for a period of some 30 years into the future. Policy relevant information and in particular the status of the desertification and degradation of the watershed is available in the form of state variables (mostly represented as maps) but also a large number of indicators including a dynamic version of the Environmentally Sensitive Areas indicator. The current version of the Decision Support System is applied to the Guadelintin watershed. Applying it to similar watersheds is possible, but it is not straightforward and not supported by the graphical user-interface of the system. The MedAction PSS is fairly unique in both the level of integration achieved and the level of operational usage and usability achieved within a system running on the pc (MS Windows) of the individual policy maker. Great progress has been made in linking socio-economic and physical processes typifying Mediterranean watersheds. Thus the system enables analysing both the physical and the socio-economic drivers that cause land degradation and desertification in an explicitly dynamic and spatial manner.

Commercial and Use potential:
With due care, the current version of the system can be applied for practical policy-making in the Guadelintin river basin by technical users and consultants. The commercialisation of the system is not to be foreseen in the immediate future. This would require more research and development work (among others in terms of calibration and validation of the models), more support via the user-interface for setting up the system for new watersheds, and not in the least the production of training materials and courses for educating the intended end-users of the system. It is expected that an investment in the order of 300-500 kEuro is required to achieve this goal.

A well calibrated, well documented and more user-friendly version of the system would potentially have many end-users, hence may be a commercially viable product. The group of potential end-users of the system is large. It includes in particular managers of watersheds, but also technicians, planners and decision makers at the national, regional, provincial and municipal levels. The intended end-users of the system should have a more than average technical and scientific background in geography, soil sciences, hydrology, modelling, GIS, or ecology. Thus, research organisations, engineering and consulting companies are likely users of the tool. They could support the administrations in setting up and running the tool.

The social relevance of the Policy Support System developed is its capability of enabling an integrated assessment of policies and planning actions targeted at preventing, mitigating or reversing the problems caused by desertification in Mediterranean watersheds and in particular the Guadalentin river watershed. Thus, the system is instrumental in developing exploitation schemes that are sustainable, and in maintaining or increasing the level of wealth of the local population, in particular the local farmers population. The PSS provides this kind of support through its analytical power, but its interactive and graphical nature makes the likely outcomes of policy actions and scenarios very tangible. It thus is a very useful tool for communicating a complex message to local inhabitants and stakeholders.

The current version of the system together with its technical documentation and user manual will be made available to interested users via the web-site of RIKS ( Interested users can request a demonstration license. This license is free of charge but for a limited duration of 1 year.

Informations connexes

Reported by

RIKS (Research Instituut voor KennisSystemen) bv
P.O. Box 463
6200 AL Maastricht
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