Brazilian Cerrado ontology network
and qualitative models: a case study
application of geolinked data
approach to Ecology
University of Brasilia, Brazil
• Background and state of the art
• Research question
• The proposal
• Work in progress
• What is next…
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A field of research and development focused on the interface
between ecology, computer science, and information technology.
“Ecologists have recognized the need for integrated data
systems to support cross-disciplinary collaboration to
understand the basic ecological principles that govern the
Green et al. (2005)
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AI Technologies can be useful to theoretical development in Ecology:
• To organize knowledge bases compatible with computers,
including qualitative and quantitative knowledge;
• To perform fast assessment of assumptions, hypotheses and
other ideas in a theoretical context;
• To determine the consequences and the logical consistency of
long and complex paths of ecological reasoning.
Maybe the most immediate impact of AI Technologies will be on
the way ecologists organize, develop and implement models.
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Why models are necessary?
• To build and use models contribute to…
• Understand the structure of systems;
• Predict the behavior of systems;
• Control variables in order to obtain specific results.
• They are used in:
• Scientific research;
• Decision making and management;
• Education and training.
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To build ecological models is a complex task because...
1. Ecological models are heterogeneous, including both qualitative
and quantitative knowledge;
2.It is hard to collect data and perform experiments;
3.The available data is incomplete, inaccurate, uncertain and
many times expressed in qualitative terms;
4.The theoretical foundations and the laws (or first principles) are
still under development.
• New approaches to ecological modeling are required!
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Qualitative Reasoning (QR)
It is an area of artificial intelligence that creates
representations for continuous aspects of the world to
support reasoning with little information
The use of QR models can contribute to clarify many aspects
and to improve the understanding of causal reasoning chains
involving environmental factors and changes in populations
Salles & Bredeweg (2006)
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Qualitative Ecological Models
Are promising because
• Allow to build and run simulations with incomplete knowledge;
• Allow to create a rich vocabulary about a variety of systems;
• Explicit representation of causality which gives support to
explanation of systems from its structure;
• Contribute to improve comprehension about complex systems
and fosters the decision making process.
Advantages over numerical models
• Inaccurate prediction, but CORRECT
• Easy exploitation of alternatives
• Automatic interpretation
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What all savannas have in common?
“Savanna occurs over a vast range of conditions that have little in
common except for their inability to support rapid tree growth.”
(Hoffman et al., 2012)
Source: Challenges and opportunities in remote sensing of global savannas. Colorado State University.
Available in: http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/projects/srs/
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2 main reasons why do I care about Cerrado
1. Ecological Theory
• Equilibrium x Non-equilibrium
2. Conservation Biology
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Disturbances such as fire, grazing and
browsing are required to maintaing
both trees and grasses in the system
Disturbances such as fire and
herbivore, although capable to modify
tree to grass ratios, are not necessary
Climatically determined savannas
Sankaran et al. (2005)
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About 50% of Cerrado is Deforested
Total Area: 2.047.146,35 Km2
Cerrado vegetation type (%) IBGE (2004)
Cerrado cover type (%) IBGE (2004)
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Cerrado + Poor acid, aluminum toxicity soils + State-of-the-Art Technology + Farmers =
Deforested area accumulated until 2008
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Amount of soybean production (ton) in 2005 per municipality
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Cerrado vegetation characteristics
OM and Soil Fertility %
General Structure of Cerrado
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How to use the GeoLinked data approach to
integrate datasets along with qualitative reasoning
ecological models, in order to improve the
understanding of ecological mechanisms and
facilitate access and management of environmental
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The use of qualitative conceptual simulation
models, associated to data sources made available
by geolinked data semantic techniques, can
improve the interpretative and predictive capacity
over the data available about the dynamics of
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Data and Metadata
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Species: Ouratea hexasperma
Fire frequency: Fire Protected
GeoLinked data to retrieve appropriate models
Species: Ouratea hexasperma
Fire frequency: Low
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Methodological aspects: the Life Cycle Model
Iterative incremental life cycle
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• Ontology Requirements Specification Document
Ontology Requirements Specification Document
The purpose of the Cerrado ontology network is to represent the scientific knowledge about the ecology and dynamics of
Cerrado plants, it should express how the structure of the plant communities in Cerrado is and how they change over time.
Because of the complexity and extend of the domain, the scope of the ontologies will focus to cover the following subdomains:
plant community dynamics and fire.
3 Implementation Language
The Ontologies will be developed using the Web Ontology Language OWL, once it is part of the W3C recommendation for the
4 Intended End-Users
Researchers and scientists seeking to understand the functioning of savannah plant community.
Environment managers of conservation units and those responsible for making the public policies for environment and
Ecological and environmental information and data about Brazilian Cerrado users.
5 Intended Uses
To store data and provide information about diversity, composition and dynamics of Cerrado wood plants.
To propose a standard and management practice of the data available about the Cerrado vegetation.
To propose a service in which the user can search for species, its location and assess the changes in populations over time.
6 Ontology Requirements
a. Non-Functional Requirements
NFR1: The ontology network must give support to a multilingual scenario for Portuguese and English.
b. Functional Requirements: Groups of Competency Questions
For the functional requirements it was used the competency questions technique (Gruninger and Fox, 1994) recommended by
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• Competency Questions
# Competency Questions for CCOn
1 What is a biome?
2 What is a savanna?
3 What characterizes a savanna?
4 What are the determining factors of savannas?
5 What is Cerrado?
6 What characterizes the Cerrado?
7 What is a population?
8 What is population growth?
9 Which processes determine the size of a population?
10 What is mortality?
11 What is natality?
12 What is an ecological community?
13 What are the types of ecological communities?
14 What is biodiversity?
15 What is the species richness of a community?
16 What factors determine the species richness of a community?
17 What is a plant community?
18 What are the types of plant communities?
19 What are wood plants?
20 What are herbaceous plants?
What are the main measurements of biological diversity of a community
# Competency Questions for Fire Ontology
65 Where does occur the wildfires in Cerrado?
66 How often Cerrado vegetation burns?
67 In what period of the year does wildfires occur in Cerrado?
68 What is wildfire?
69 Where are located the places with similar temperature range?
Where are located the places with maximum temperature in a
71 What are the types of wildfires?
72 What is the severity of each burn event in Cerrado?
73 What is the temperature of a location in a given time?
74 What is the relative humidity of a location in a given time?
75 What causes a burn event?
76 What are the effects of a burn event?
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Reused x New Terms
Table 2. Reused Classes
Number of terms
Table 3. Reused Properties
Table 4. New terms
N of classes N of properties N of individuals
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Use case example
Domain specific ontologies
Gerais de Balsas Colonization
Project, Maranhão, Brazil
Is characterized by
Cerrado sensu stricto
Is part of
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Ontology evaluation: Pitfalls
Table 3. Ontology Pitfalls found in Fire Ontology
Table 4. Ontology Pitfalls found in Ccon Ontology
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• 2 Questionnaires were elaborated (G forms)
• Likert scale and Open Questions
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What is next
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Data Sources for RDF generation
Data sources for vegetation dynamics on scientific literature:
• Souza, A. (2010). Estrutura e Dinâmica da Vegetação Lenhosa de Cerrado sensu stricto no período de 19 anos, na Reserva Ecológica do
IBGE , Distrito Federal , Brasil. 68p. Dissertação de mestrado. Departamento de Ecologia. Universidade de Brasília.
• Roitman, I.; Felfili, J.M.; Rezende, A.V. (2008). Tree dynamics of a fire-protected cerrado sensu stricto surrounded by forest plantations,
over a 13-years period (1991-2004) in Bahia, Brazil. Plant Ecology. 197: 255-267.
• Moreira, A.G. (1992). Fire protection and vegetation dynamics in the Brazilian Cerrado. Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA,
• Aquino, F. D. G., Walter, B. M. T., & Ribeiro, J. F. (2007). Woody community dynamics in two fragments of “cerrado” stricto sensu over a
seven-year period (1995-2002), MA, Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Botânica, 30(1), 113–121.
• Libano, A. M., & Felfili, J. M. (2006). Mudanças temporais na composição florística e na diversidade de um cerrado sensu stricto do Brasil
Central em um período de 18 anos (1985-2003). Acta Botanica Brasilica, 20(4), 927–936.
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• This work presents a plan for a pilot study to be a test.
• It involves linked geographical, meteorological, ecological and
environmental open data provided by Brazilian government
• A methodology based in a Geolinked data approach is adopted
to create a case study aiming investigate the application of
linked data principles to ecology.
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• A relevant question to be investigated in this preliminary pilot
study is how to integrate qualitative reasoning models along
with maps and other data, be able to reason with the data and
make inferences and finally to show the results.
• The topics addressed in this work have potential to boost both
applications of geolinked data technologies to new areas, and
to open new perspectives for research involving ecological data
management, integration and use.
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