A reference business process for ecological niche modelling
ecological niche modeling, Modelling software packages, Reference architecture, Reference business process, SOA, species distribution
Ecological niche modelling combines species occurrence points with environmental raster layers in order to obtain models for describing the probabilistic distribution of species. The process to generate an ecological niche model is complex. It requires dealing with a large amount of data, use of different software packages for data conversion, for model generation and for different types of processing and analyses, among other functionalities. A software platform that integrates all requirements under a single and seamless interface would be very helpful for users. Furthermore, since biodiversity modelling is constantly evolving, new requirements are constantly being added in terms of functions, algorithms and data formats. This evolution must be accompanied by any software intended to be used in this area. In this scenario, a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an appropriate choice for designing such systems. According to SOA best practices and methodologies, the design of a reference business process must be performed prior to the architecture definition. The purpose is to understand the complexities of the process (business process in this context refers to the ecological niche modelling problem) and to design an architecture able to offer a comprehensive solution, called a reference architecture, that can be further detailed when implementing specific systems. This paper presents a reference business process for ecological niche modelling, as part of a major work focused on the definition of a reference architecture based on SOA concepts that will be used to evolve the openModeller software package for species modelling. The basic steps that are performed while developing a model are described, highlighting important aspects, based on the knowledge of modelling experts. In order to illustrate the steps defined for the process, an experiment was developed, modelling the distribution of Ouratea spectabilis (Mart.) Engl. (Ochnaceae) using openModeller. As a consequence of the knowledge gained with this work, many desirable improvements on the modelling software packages have been identified and are presented. Also, a discussion on the potential for large-scale experimentation in ecological niche modelling is provided, highlighting opportunities for research. The results obtained are very important for those involved in the development of modelling tools and systems, for requirement analysis and to provide insight on new features and trends for this category of systems. They can also be very helpful for beginners in modelling research, who can use the process and the experiment example as a guide to this complex activity.