A Dynamic Information Framework: from Global Change to Regional Insitutions

A Multi-Sector, Geospatial Gateway for "Actionable Information"

   The objective of the Dynamic Information Framework (DIF) is to provide gateway for dynamic understanding, management, and planning of the landscape, in a rapidy evolving world. Landscapes and their downstream coastal zones are facing a series of challenges critical to their future, centered on the availability and distribution of water. Land use actions can have hydrological flow impacts hundreds to thousands of miles away. Floods and droughts will impact biodiversity, freshwater resources, agriculture and livelihoods. Upstream development of hydropower will provide much-needed energy, but will alter the flow regime and sediment transport of the river. Climate variability is forcing changes in temperature and rainfall regimes, and possibly, the frequency and intensity of extreme events. Global economic impacts and food shortages are already growing concern; international effort must be made to predict and mitigate potential changes.

     Through a series of projects sponsored by the World Bank, the UW River Systems Research Group and collegues have been developing DIF case studies. In this section:

* Case studies for the Aral Sea basin, the Kingdom of Bhutan, the Espirito Santo state Brazil, and Yemen are given (to the right, under Topics).

* The mechanics of developing a DIF are given here, as "What is a dynamic information framework?" and to the right.

* The rationale for and development of DIF is given below.


Complexities of Multi-scale Resource Management Practices: Towards a "Dynamic information Framework"

     Environmental adaptation is functionally and practically expressed by such questions as:

o   How would changes in land use practices affect water supply, water quality, and biodiversity?
o   What effects would changing climate have on water resources and biodiversity?
o   What would be the impacts of changes in agriculture (including irrigation) and forestry practices on local and regional water balances?
o   How does biodiversity respond to altitude, soil, and climate gradients? What are the linkages between biodiversity and agricultural productivity?
o   If some indication of climate over a growing season was provided, could crop selection (and fire management) be improved?
o   Can floods or droughts be predicted, or at least anticipated, one or two months into the future, as an early-warning system?
o   How can safe water be provided to local villages for the rural poor, while developing adaptation strategies for both rural and urban populations and large infrastructure, and sustaining the environmental flows and services needed for natural and human-dominated ecosystems?

How can government ministries and development organizations respond to such complex questions? These targets represent a very complex set of intersecting issues of scale, cross-sector science and technology, education, politics, and economics. Implications transcend individual projects and ministries. An immediate challenge is to incorporate the realities of changing environmental conditions in these sectors into the policies and projects of the Ministries nominally responsible, based on the absolute best understanding of the issues involved, and done in a way that optimizes a multi-stakeholder return. Overall, this intersection is poorly-understood, verging on "black-box," where the paucity of data and complexity in processes creates serious problems in decision making.

      Central to a response is "actionable information-" the synthesis and "bringing to life" of the key information that integrates the end-to-end knowledge required to provide the high-level decision support to make the most informed decisions.  But, in practice, the information necessary and even perspectives are virtually absent, in much of especially the developing world. The objective of the Dynamic Information Framework (DIF) is to provide gateway for dynamic understanding, management, and planning of the landscape. A basic premise is that the evolution of "earth system science" now provides the information and technology to make such tools possible. Information layers from diverse sources are assembled, according to the principles of how the landscape is organized, and computer models are used to bring the information "to life."  A fundamental aspect to a DIF is not only the convergence of multi-sector information, but how that information can be conveyed, in the most compelling, and visual, manner.

DIF Development and Prototypes  

      The DIF construct originated to support University of Washington's PRISM project, a UW and region-wide initiative, sponsored by the UW's University Initiative Fund (UIF), to foster a collaborative partnership among University, State, and Federal, and University partners. The unifying theme was understanding the processes and role that water plays in the region's natural and cultural environment, from the top of mountains to the bottom of Puget Sound.  PRISM focused on applying advanced information techniques to very inter-disciplinary issues, ultimately expressed as a Virtual Puget Sound.  Issues   range from habitat influences on salmon, to how population changes will increase nutrient loading and oxygen depletion in nearshore waters, and how future climate will affect future flows. Through classes and targeted research projects, PRISM connected Puget Sound science directly with undergraduate and graduate learning. In this spirit, the Virtual Puget Sound can be thought of as an "Earth System Module," where lessons learned here can be applied globally.

      The lessons of PRISM were exported initial to the Mekong River basin, of Southeast Asia, where the a large-scale field and modeling program SEA BASINS, on the hydrology and biogeochemistry of the river system, was being conducted (funded by
the US National Science Foundation and NASA). Work addressed not onlybasic "science" questions, but how such an information base could be applied to the "sustainability" of the region. The issues facing the development of the Mekong are extremely complex, involving the intersection of the "natural" environment (landscape structure, hydrologic cycle, fisheries) in the context of social and economic development, particularly hydropower. Analysis of this suite of issues poses information challenges, from the managementand analysis of complex data to conveying the results to (non-technical) Decision Makers and a general public. In ajoint project with the Mekong River Commission, the Virtual Mekong Basin (VMB) is being developed to "tell the story" of the multiple issues facing the Mekong Basin, and is included as part of MRC's Data Portal.

    For example, we can start by taking a Google Earth Tour of the Upper Mekong. Then we can "see" the annual hydrological cycle seen through the eyes of a hydrology model, of how the seasonality of the monsoon rainfall results in runoff and evapotranspiration, acorss the entire basin,  given specific landuse types.  

      In the global spirit, the World Bank and affiliates are developing other DIF prototypes.

     In 2006, the Government of Mozambique (GoM) requested World Bank support, through the Zambezi Valley Market Led Smallholder Development Project, to address the deevelopment constraitns and to improve small-holder productivity in the lower Zambezi basin, by adopting a community demand-driven approach. Part of this work was to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry for the Coordination of Environment Affairs (MICOA) to implement the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-financed component to collect quantitative baseline data that would facilitate an objective evaluation of the status of land cover, land use change, and water dynamics over the last 10 years. This led to the development of the first DIF effort, the ZambeziDIFIn a rapid assessment, the project folded basin scale modeling with high resolution remote sensing (by the Carnegie Institute of Washington) of project sites, and mapped biodiversity transects (by the Center of Biodiversity Mangement), producing the Baseline Report. As a brief example of how remote-sensing of vegetation changes over the course of a growing season (the "phenology"), a Time Series of the vegetation parameter NDVI, derived from the MODIS satellite, shows the "greening" and "drying"of the Zambezi basin.  The GoM went on to establish a national project team to continue the effort.

      The Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP) is a GEF-funded project executed by Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of the Royal Government of Bhutan. It aims at realizing global and national environmental benefits from introducing cross ­sectoral land management planning and implementation in selected pilot sites and at bringing lessons learnt up to policy level for amendments of both planning procedures and regulatory framework. In order to optimize the outputs and outcomes of the SLMP, part of the project was to establish reliable and robust baselines for the biodiversity, land cover, land use, and hydrology components. The process is to develop DrukDIF (Druk is "Thunder Dragon") with time series data sets in state of the art models that can be utilized by staff in National Agencies to analyze the resource base and develop predictive scenarios and appropriate interventions, with climatic and ecosystem changes in mind. Knowledge of how water is distributed across the country is essential for hydopower planning,  flood prediction, and where to develop agriculture. E.g., the VIC Model shows how rainfall translates into runoff, in 2006. DrukDIF is moving from a test-of-concept to an operational phase. The stakeholder base has been broadened, across several ministries and departments.  Uses can range range from extending local biodiversity transects across the country (including how to use "plant functional type" characterizations to improve landscape/hydrology models) to computing how much energy can be sold to India tomorrow, based on waterflows today. That said, implementation into the future is depedent on capacity building and committment.

      The Central Asia Republics are endowed with significant energy resources, which are unevenly distributed across the region. Given large existing and potential water storage capacity, the role of the hydro resources extends beyond power generation to other sectors such as agriculture, drinking water and irrigation VICin both upstream and downstream countries. The "energy-water nexus" related to winter energy deficits and summer flows has received considerable attention. The World Bank is undertaking the Central Asia Energy Water Development Program (CAEWDP) to build regional energy and water security through enhanced regional cooperation. To meet the overall objective of the CAEWDP, modeling and analytical underpinnings are part of the Bank's due diligence process for investments, and to better understanding the energy water relationship in the region. A key element is to develop transparent modeling tools and strengthen the capacity for decision-making. The AralDIF project was initiated to develop a first-generation model, from publically available data and model platforms, that visualize and simulate water and energy linkages in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river systems, with a Damspurpose to provoke a dialogue and discussion with regional and national technical stakeholders. The purpose of this first phase is to illustrate, from a neutral and transparent platform, possible resolutions and scenarios. Using only globally-available, open-source datasets, the   hydrology model was able to describe the interannual sequence of hydrologic variables (for example, the Amu Darya, for 2006, VIC animation).  A significant issue in the region is the history and future of dams. A step in integrating the dams into an overall evaluation of water and energy is knowing the location and attributes of the dams. This effort intends to serve as a catalyst for open and transparent discussion on water and energy linkages. A Google Earth tour gives a sense of what dams are where.

      Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda's economy, accounting for about 39 percent of GDP, 80 percent of employment, and63 percent of foreign exchange earnings. The sector faces several challenges: (i) a binding land constraint that rules out extensification (bringing more and more land under cultivation);(ii) small average land holdings, (iii) poor water management (uneven rainfall and ensuing variability in production) resulting from very low levels of irrigation; (iv) the need for greater (public and private) capacity from the district to the national levels and the lack of extension services for farmers; and (v) limited commercial orientation constrained by poor access to output and financial markets. Without the option of extensification, agricultural intensification must take place in the context of a potentially fertile, butchallenging, physical environment. To address the critical agenda of hillside intensification, the Government designed and developed a Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation (LWH) Program, funded in part as Credit from the World Bank (IDA). An objective of the project is scoping out the use of  ImisoziDIF (Imisozi is Kinyarwanda for "mountains," in the Land of a Thousand Hills) as a decision support system responsive to climate, climate change and proposed water, land and crop uses under LWH. 

     The State of Espírito Santo and the Espírito Santo Biodiversity and Watershed Conservation and Restoration Project area are located in the Atlantic Forest biome, which, due to its exceptional level of species diversity and its vulnerability to continuing threats, is  among the world's top priority conservation areas. The Floresta para Vida (FpV) project focuses on seeking to conserve and remediate two critical, high-biodiversity watersheds in south-central Espírito Santo: the watersheds of the Jucu and the Santa Maria da Vitória Rivers. Efforts to conserve and restore habitat and natural ecosystem services have been hampered by the lack of institutional and individual capacity to implement sustainable land management and water resource management, at both the national and watershed levels. Technical assistance and services that could spread knowledge and skills of new land use practices among landholders and producers is limited relative to demand.

trmm In order to optimize the outputs and outcomes of the project, it is important to establish reliable and robust baselines for the biodiversity, land cover, land use, and hydrology components relevant to FpV and State goals and objectives. The  recently-launched Portão Capixaba de Gestão das Águas e da Paisagem DIF project is mobilizing geospatial and point datasets need to be made readily available, and incorporated into models that expedite understanding of the systems, and the development of scenarios about how these systems might evolve under different conditions.  Models are being developed to include the entire state (plus the section of the Rio Doce in Minas Gerais) and to focus on at higher resolution on the Rios Jucu and Santa Maria de Vitoria. The catastrophic storms and consequences of December 2013 highlight the need for enhanced planning tools.

     Yemen, with a population of 25 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world.  It is among the ten countries in the world with the highest rates of food insecurity, and it has the third highest level of malnutrition in the world. For poor people in Yemen, who mostly live in rural areas, agriculture is particularly important as a source of food and income. Growth in Yemeni agriculture is, however, hampered by its reliance on a weak natural resource base - specifically land fragmentation and extreme water scarcity.The situation is exacerbated by extreme political instability.

   The Yemen Dynamic Information Framework (YemenDIF) was developed to organize information to address the questions: What are the important elements in the bio-physical environment that capture the status of the natural resource base on which rural communities make their living? How does the physical environment set the stage for the communities? And how do the rural households cope with the demands of that physical environment, especially in a dynamic context. It provides professional staff in Yemen with geospatial information that is diffcult to obtain under current conditions.