We are at the dawn of a new era; one in which the natural environment is seen and valued, not just for its beauty but also for its ability to protect us from the physical consequences of climate change. To make amends for the damage caused by human actions, Geo-data is crucial on this journey to achieve the required level of funding.
Coastal zones are reliant on our natural ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea grass beds. These natural environments provide coastal communities with protection from extreme weather events, vital resources from aquaculture and support biodiversity. Increasing climate impacts and urbanisation threatens coastal and marine natural capital with changing and compounding geohazards, such as increased storm activity, sea level rise, UV exposure and ocean acidification alongside anthropogenic hazards.
Geo-data plays a central role in understanding and quantifying these risks and digital twins are key to sharing these insights. Access to organised and high-resolution Geo-data will be vital in unravelling the complex relationships between changing hazards and the impact on natural capital ecosystems.
The WWF’s living planet index identified that the economic value of nature is worth an estimated $125 trillion of which the blue economy is worth around $24 trillion. The World Economic Forum reported that between 2020 to 2030, approximately $2.7 trillion are required per year from private investment funds to scale the transition and deploy technological innovation effectively. However, adaptation investment is notoriously difficult to track due to challenges associated with context dependency and the uncertain causality of investments made.
To achieve this level of capital investment, greater certainty is needed in order to reduce adaption investment risk. During assessments of these ecosystems through scientific methods, we need to address the key questions of why and how something is happening and deliver the insights that both technical and non-technical decision makers require. Through movements such as geospatial finance and the development of parametric insurance systems, technological advancements are being made to support the linking of financial decisions with Geo-data.
Harnessing the value of global open-source models such as the Allen Coral Atlas and ocean models being developed through initiatives like the Digital Twins of the Ocean (DITTO) and European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), will be vital in gaining a better understanding of the issues. Linking localised approaches to these digital twins will also help further our understanding of these complex ecosystems.
Using advanced AI and cloud technologies with the right Geo-data at site specific levels can help us diagnose the impact of changes. This allows us to understand why something is happening and confidently predict what is likely to happen in the future to advise on sustainable actions. This will help decision makers unlock the finance needed to deliver robust protection strategies, manage these impacts and restore our natural marine ecosystems.
Like building information models (BIM), used to manage information about the built environment, natural ecosystem information models (NIM) provide a representative digital twin that integrates various datasets to understand how measured variables impact change in the ecosystem’s health over time by:
With any potential digital solution, the value of local communities must not be overlooked. These communities interact and rely on these ecosystems daily. Exploring digital processes that allow local initiatives and citizen science approaches to be set up would be considered relatively low tech, but the value of data from this daily interaction would offer vital insights in ground truthing NIM.
The integration of various geo data streams through AI and cloud technologies
The journey to understanding our oceans and natural ecosystems will require detailed digital twins at both a global and local level. This journey will be complex, requiring extensive insights from Geo-data and many stakeholders working together across science, engineering, finance, and politics. Digital twins will provide us with the right tool to organise and access information in a way that we can understand how to act and through initiatives like DITTO and EMODnet, we are finding ways of working together effectively to help restore and preserve our natural capital.
Accurate and efficient hydrographic surveys for nautical charting, route surveys for subsea telecommunication cables, and bathymetry for coastal zone management using an integrated solution consisting of remote sensing, lidar and acoustic sensor technology.
Integrating consultancy with ecological surveys and laboratory testing to support infrastructure planning, consenting and development, environmental protection and resource management.
Commercial meteorological and oceanographic services and systems to reduce uncertainty in engineering specifications, support planning and enhance safety and operational efficiency.