EMDS (Ecosystem Management Decision Support) is a system of tools for Land and Resource Management. The application framework is designed for maximum flexibility. The knowledge-based decision support is organized for evaluation and planning to help the resource manager and analysts, and is scalable for any geographic area. To accomplish this, EMDS integrates the logic engine of NetWeaver (Rules of Thumb, Inc.) to perform landscape evaluations, and the decision modeling engine of Criterium Decission Plus (InfoHarvest, Inc.) for evaluation management priorities. Custom software from Mountain View Business Group (MVBG) ties all these engines into a user friendly support system.
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The EMDS add-in to ArcMap consists of the six components described in this section. For practical purposes, the EMDS Project Environment can be thought of as a supervisory component of the add-in that manages the activities and interactions of the other components within the ArcMap environment. The EMDS Project Environment also is the primary component of the add-in with which a user interacts to set up assessments, analyses, and scenarios, all of which are organized within a tree view of project structure.
ArcMap itself provides the resource manager with a powerful GIS environment in which to visualize, create, process, and display spatial information. It is in ArcMap where a user assembles all the necessary data layers to be processed by the NetWeaver logic engine, and ArcMap handles all EMDS spatial displays. More generally, however, because EMDS is implemented as an ArcMap add-in, all the spatial processing power inherent to ArcMap, and any of its other available extensions and add-ins, is available to the EMDS user.
The NetWeaver logic engine evaluates data against a knowledge base that provides a formal specification for the interpretation of data. A knowledge base can be thought of as a type of meta database. EMDS application developers use the NetWeaver Developer System (Rules of Thumb, Inc.) to design the knowledge bases used in EMDS. The logic engine allows partial evaluations of ecosystem states and processes based on available information, making it ideal for use in landscape evaluation where data are often incomplete. The NetWeaver engine was selected as the core logic processor of EMDS because its associated development system readily supports design of logic specifications for the types of large, complex, and abstract problems typically posed by ecosystem management.
A second key feature provided by the logic engine is the ability to evaluate the influence of missing information on the logical completeness of an assessment. The engine, in conjunction with the EMDS Project Environment and the Data Acquisition Manager, provides powerful diagnostic tools for determining which missing data are most valuable given currently available data and for determining how much priority to give to missing data given other logistical information.
The Priority Analyst (PA) is a planning component that assists with setting priorities for management activities in landscape elements of the assessment area given results of a landscape evaluation performed by the NetWeaver logic engine. Whereas the logic engine addresses questions about the current state of the assessment area, PA addresses questions about where to direct management for best effect. For most applications of evaluation and planning, maintaining this distinction is important because the landscape elements in poorest condition are not necessarily also the best candidates for management activities such as restoration for example.
PA is a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) component that assists resource managers in ranking landscape elements based on how well each rates against a set of decision criteria. Using output from a landscape evaluation and a decision model designed in Criterium DecisionPlus (InfoHarvest, Inc.), PA rates the landscape elements not only with respect to their condition, but also with respect to factors related to the feasibility and efficacy of management. PA implements two decision models: the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and the Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART).
VisiRule is a graphical tool for building expert systems, developed by Logic Programming Associates, makers of Win-Prolog. VisiRule’s Prolog-based engine is being integrated into the EMDS environment in 2017, expanding the suite of engines available in EMDS for delivering spatial decision support solutions for environmental analysis and planning.
Expert systems are rule-based programs which encapsulate and execute the specialist knowledge of human experts. Rules are used to model and simulate the behavior of domain experts who understand the relationships between different entities within the geographical landscape, and are extremely useful when those relationships are quite soft and fluid. By connecting enough rules together, an inference chain can be computed to derive new information or conclusions.
VisiRule enables experts to build models with a dedicated graphical tool that uses decision trees and flow charts, avoiding the need to learn a new programming idiom. As with the other analytical components in EMDS, VisiRule diagrams also provide an intuitive explanation for how conclusions are reached and choices are made.