Ecosim is a 3D simulation program of natural landscapes. Ecosim offers a virtual landscape in which all sorts of ecological processes, such as succession are simulated. The program is set up as a computer game. In various different assignments, the user takes on the role of a terrain manager, whose objectives are to preserve specific target species. Ecosim can be downloaded for free and is open source software. There are assignments in Dutch and English and there is a pdf manual explaining how to translate Ecosim-assignments into other languages as well.
How does Ecosim work?
Each Ecosim game consists of a landscape ranging between 3000 to about one million tiles of 20 x 20 metres. Each tile is defined by ecological parameters (e.g. pH, nutrients, vegetation structure). There are also tiles for roads, dykes, agricultural land, buildings, etc.).
By conducting research in this landscape, the user discovers the conservation problem and subsequently chooses the management to achieve the required conservation objective. Ecosim calculates the population dynamics of the target species each subsequent year. Research and management consume time and money, which adds another element to the game.
Ecosim was developed in the Netherlands and was originally developed for Dutch students from high school to university level, in order to train them in thinking about ecological processes and to introduce them to the issues that are important in nature conservation.
Ecosim allows anyone to create – via GIS or even Google Earth – models of local natural areas, to (re)program ecological relations, succession and species population dynamics.