Ecosim is a 3D simulation program of natural landscapes that simulates ecological processes. The program is set up as a computer game. In various different assignments, the player takes on the role of a terrain manager, whose objectives are to preserve specific target species. Ecosim is open source software that you can download for free. There are assignments in both English and Dutch. A pdf manual explains how to translate Ecosim-assignments into other languages as well.
How does Ecosim work?
Each Ecosim game consists of a 3D landscape. The size of the landscape depends on the game and ranges between one thousand to one million landscape tiles. Each tile is defined by ecological parameters, such as pH, nutrients, vegetation structure and so on. There are also tiles for roads, dykes, agricultural land, buildings and other structures.
The player is confronted by a conservation problem, for example the decline of a rare species. He carries out field research to discover why this species is disappearing and chooses the measures accordingly. 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.
We originally developed Ecosim as open source software for Dutch students from high school to university level. Its goal is to train them in thinking about ecological processes and to introduce them to the issues that are important in nature conservation. However, Ecosim can simulate all kinds of ecosystems. Teachers, students and nature conservationists all over the world can use the program to build new games. Ecosim allows anyone to create models of local natural areas via GIS or even Google Earth. With some experience in programming, you can (re)program ecological relations, succession and species population dynamics.