Explained: UN Artificial Intelligence Tool ARIES for SEEA Explorer Works

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Using ARIES technology, the ARIES for SEEA Explorer application allows users anywhere in the world to produce rapid, standardized, scalable and customizable ecosystem accounts for their area of interest that are consistent with the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting framework.

New Delhi (ABC Live India): The United Nations launched an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool,ARIES for SEEA Explorer that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and wellbeing.

Artificial Intelligence for Environment & Sustainability (ARIES), developed by researchers at the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), is an integrated, open-source modelling platform for environmental sustainability, where researchers from across the globe can add their own data and models to web-based repositories.

Using ARIES technology, the ARIES for SEEA Explorer application allows users anywhere in the world to produce rapid, standardized, scalable and customizable ecosystem accounts for their area of interest that are consistent with the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting framework. 

ARIES for SEEA is available on the UN Global Platform, a cloud-service platform supporting international collaboration in the development of official statistics using new data sources and innovative methods.

What does it do?

Easy-to-use and readily available, the ARIES for SEEA Explorer lowers the barriers to compiling ecosystem accounts. The application can generate ecosystem accounts for any user-specified terrestrial area in the world (such as a country, administrative region, watershed, etc.), by using freely available global remote-sensing derived data and models, and rapidly computes these accounts online, using a web browser.

The current Explorer functionalities are restricted to assessing ecosystem

1. Extent (based on the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology),

2. Condition (for forest ecosystem types),

3. Selected ecosystem services in physical and monetary units using basic models as a starting point. The outcomes can be analyzed and downloaded to further explore the results (either through a spreadsheet or GIS software).

The Explorer automatically generates a comprehensive ecosystem accounts report, fully documenting the data, models, coefficients and methods used.

How does it work?

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) – specifically semantics and machine reasoning – the ARIES for SEEA Explorer automates data and model integration. A core component of ARIES is the use of a set of consistent semantics, which comprise uniform and unambiguous definitions for the data and models involved, and the relationships between them. These semantics are constructed using an intuitive language readable by both people and computers. For example, different datasets and models are consistently labelled with clear, uniform and unambiguous descriptors.

The Explorer thus automates model selection based on a user’s specific request. It chooses the “most appropriate” model for the location, spatiotemporal resolution and account specified (e.g., an ecosystem service or condition account for a given country and year) and depending on the models and data sources accessible to the system.

How ARIES for SEEA Explorer Can be use in Future ?

The functionalities of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer will be continuously improved and expanded. Plans are already in place to add additional ecosystem types to the extent accounts; expand the condition accounts; and include additional ecosystem services, such as water supply and flood regulation. The SEEA News and Notes will report periodically as new updates become available.

Users will also be able to add their own datasets through a simple drag-and-drop function of the interface, which will allow to improve the quality the of accounts by making local/national data even easier to incorporate into the Explorer. Users will also be able to decide who accesses their additional datasets: they can keep their dataset confidential or give access to selected users or make it broadly available for further reuse.

Finally, the ARIES for SEEA Explorer will support compilation of selected SEEA Central Framework accounts.

How we can Access ARIES for SEEA?

RIES for SEEA can be accessed in two different ways: using a web browser or using ARIES’ k.LAB software. In both instances, new users should first register by creating a user profile on the Integrated Modelling Hub: https://integratedmodelling.org/hub/#/register. Please note that if using a web browser to access ARIES for SEEA, it is preferable to avoid the Edge browser.

During registration, users should provide a username and email to create their profile (no password is required at this stage). Users will receive a confirmation e-mail immediately. If no confirmation email is received, please check your spam folder. After registration, users can access the web-based version of ARIES at: https://klab.officialstatistics.org/modeler?app=aries.seea.en.

After creating a profile, users can also access the main Integrated Modelling hub page (https://integratedmodelling.org/hub/#/home). On this page, users can find more information on how to get started, check/modify the information in their profile (https://integratedmodelling.org/hub/#/profile/view), change their password and perform steps needed to use ARIES’ k.LAB software.

The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is part of the ongoing strategy aiming towards ambitious yet achievable goals for data and model interoperability in the SEEA community. The interoperability strategy will describe the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders (data providers, research and model developers, and platform hosts) to support global SEEA Ecosystem Accounting implementation.

 “The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is a game changer for governments that want to implement the recently adopted SEEA Ecosystem Accounting standard,” stressed Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division. “This application allows countries to jump-start accounts compilation from global data sources, which they can refine with national data or model parameters.”

The ecosystem accounts produced by countries will track the extent, condition and services provided by nature’s ecosystems – such as forests and wetlands – in the form of physical and monetary accounts and indicators. The adoption of the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting has been heralded as a historic step forward for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to move beyond GDP in tracking global progress.

Bert Kroese, Deputy Director for Statistics Netherlands and Chair of the UN Committee of Environmental-Economic Accounting said, “The ARIES for SEEA Explorer will give countries a much-needed tool to make progress with the SDGs and the monitoring framework of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Its low barrier to entry will ensure that no country is left behind when it comes to ecosystem accounting.”

Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa and Chair of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics said, “The launch of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer on the UN Global Platform is an important step to mainstream the measurement of ecosystems and their contribution to the economy and wellbeing into global, regional and domestic statistics that will feed into policy and decision making. Better measures of nature will contribute to better policies to save our planet.”

Building economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing, environmental health and economic prosperity in the post-COVID-19 world is essential, according to Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division. “Having technology that incorporates and integrates the latest data, models and understanding of nature’s contributions through natural capital accounting will facilitate well-informed nature positive decision-making from businesses and governments – driving tangible action on biodiversity loss and climate change and a sustainable future for all,” she said.

The new platform could lead to greater collaboration. Ferdinando Villa, Ikerbasque Professor and Lead Investigator of ARIES at BC3, added, “There is a growing global demand for sustainable management of our natural resources, and to achieve this, scientists and decision-makers need to collaborate more and more. AI-based tools like the ARIES for SEEA Explorer hold the key to a future where open integration and reuse of knowledge, by both, is possible.”

The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is available on the UN Global Platform: a cloud-service environment supporting international collaboration among all countries in the world by sharing scientific knowledge, data, methods and technology.

A number of countries have already started using the ARIES for SEEA Explorer. The Explorer will continue to be expanded in the near future, by adding the functionality to derive indicators that allow to assess progress towards SDGs and the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

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