Measuring Ecosystem Services

Since my partners and I established Green Analytics, we have been focused on finding win-win opportunities to support economic development and environmental well-being. We have been busy working on some very exciting projects in Alberta and Ontario.

One project that is a key focus for me is the development of Alberta’s Bio-Resource Information Management System. We call it BRIMS.

In the fall of 2011, Alberta Innovates Bio-Solutions engaged Green Analytics and our partner Silvacom to begin working on the Bio-Resource Information Management System (BRIMS) project. Following the first phase, BRIMS will reflect the current state of data and information available on biomass in Alberta from private and public sources.

BRIMS will provide publicly accessible data on biomass resources, standardized to the township level. Along with the initial data we will have completed an assessment of further work required to improve the data over time. We will also be providing recommendations for a funding model that ensures long term viability of data collection and sharing. We are well underway towards having the initial data ready and we expect to be able to share the initial data in late July, 2012.

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting this project at Alberta Innovates Bio-Solution’s Impact Innovation speakers series. Rather than present in a traditional PowerPoint format I worked with my communications team to develop a fun video. If  your time is short- check out our video. View the Video!

The BRIMS vision is to develop an information system that hosts spatial data telling the story of Alberta’s landscape. The data sets will be compiled at the township level to start. In the coming years we will improve and update data collection and analytical processes in order to develop a year-over-year view of how current development levels are changing the provincial landscape.

But, there is more to be done.

The final products of this work will provide Alberta with a world-class data and information asset. Based on our current preliminary conclusions, in order to reach a world class standard we will need to start from the top. The top in this case involves using plane mounted digital scanners and analytical techniques to capture a province-wide, above-surface, 3-D depiction of Alberta’s forests, fields, wetlands, grasslands and more.

BRIMS data and information will be served through a web application that will:

  • Be a publicly available platform to communicate and share data on Alberta’s ecosystem services
  • Contain an inventory of key ecosystem services in the province of Alberta
  • Have a simple and intuitive user interface for technical and non-technical data users

This data can contribute to a wide range of policy and research initiatives already underway in Alberta, including:

The scientific data that BRIMS will support can enable new and more accurate levels of analysis for a number of key purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Conducting watershed, operating area, regional and provincial  resource assessments
  • Informing the development of market and non-market based policy instruments
  • Informing the province on ecosystem changes resulting from resource development

The success of BRIMS will be realized in the coming years as the initial databases are populated and the web application is launched. Some of the benefits to Alberta include:

  • Investment grade data to support private and public decision-making for natural resources and land use
  • A publicly available spatial data resource on ecosystem services
  • Increased research and analysis in the area of land and resource use
  • Increased integration of resource development and environmental integrity
  • Costs savings for companies conducting Integrated Land Management approaches
  • Costs savings  for companies , government and non-government organizations in acquiring and processing spatial data

Of course, Green Analytics and Silvacom cannot accomplish all of this alone. Over the next couple of years we will be relying on partners and the involvement of the wider academic and analytical community. This will allow us to build a cost-effective alternative to current data gathering processing and techniques in the marketplace- thereby sustaining the long-term data procurement and processing.

We are tremendously exciting about our work on BRIMS. At Green Analytics we are continuing our mission of measuring environmental values.