System Analysis

Practical Applications

  1. Building with Nature Environment Pages
  2. Integrated Coastal Management

Example: BwN environment pages.

Physical processes can be highly variable, both in time and in space at a wide range of scales (from individual particle movement to global, sea level rise). Organisms living in a certain environment are adapted to this dynamic environment and reflect the complex biophysical interactions. Human interventions (for example shore nourishment) will change the environment and may generate anomalous habitat conditions. When designing such an intervention, it is therefore essential to consider the biophysical interactions involved and the different scales at which they take place. Building with Nature takes these processes into account and tries to make use of them wherever possible. In the BwN environment pages, the principal processes are being discussed, distinguishing smaller and larger scale processes. Ecosystem knowledge and a thorough description of the system environment is crucial for identifying essential supporting services and related natural processes (e.g. transport, carrying and restoration capacities) (see Identification of ecological and socio-economic components – EcoMindmap). Key driving factors and their link to ecosystem services are important points of focus in a design based on the BwN-principle and can lead to potential opportunities for BwN.

The System Analysis method is used in this elaboration of the environment at hand and provides an overview of EDD experiences and opportunities for several environments i.e. sandy shores, Coastal seas, Delta lakes, Tropical shelf seas and shores and Estuaries. Systems analysis required for BwN projects identifies the links between ecosystem services and their supporting services. It identifies the latter as design parameters. Seasonal dynamics, incidents and trends are especially critical if they have an influence on essential supporting services. Often there is a lack of data, which limits the possibilities to do the necessary analysis. In that case reference studies and data should be used. For BwN the link between environment, project and society is mainly made in terms of ecosystem services. In principle every ecosystem service can act as a target variable for the design and may help to make it more cost-effective, more multifunctional and more acceptable to stakeholders.

Building with Nature designs depend on the environment in which they are planned. Different environments provide different eco-system services, which in turn provides different opportunities for BwN. Systems Analysis is a tool to obtain knowledge about the ecosystem in which the BwN project will be developed. System Analysis aims to clearly define:

  • long-term processes that determine ecosystem sustainability: transport, building, carrying and restoration capacities;
  • ecosystem services;
  • opportunities for restoration or enhancement of ecological processes and win-win solutions.

External example, Integrated Coastal Management

Integrated coastal management is a multidisciplinary and dynamic process to promote sustainable management of coastal zones. It covers the full cycle of information collection, planning (in its broadest sense), decision making, management and monitoring of implementation. Integrated coastal management (ICM) can be seen as the link between the system components taking into account both the vertical integration between different levels of government and horizontal integration of different sectors. Equally important, however is the role of ICM in the decision making process and the involvement of the stakeholders in this process as a means to create public support.

For ICM, system analysis is a useful method to model the complex natural and socio-economic processes. Once properly validated, such a system analysis model can be used to quantify the effect of changing external conditions (scenario’s) and internal response strategies. The actual solution of ICM problems is extremely complex and involves a great number of aspects. Dealing with those aspects in a responsible, balanced and sustainable manner requires the gathering and processing of vast amounts of information. Reduction is commonly applied by scientists and researchers as a means to solve such complex problems. In this approach problems are decomposed in separate problem areas, for which subsequently solutions are sought which together solve the problem.

Although the identification of problems usually follows the analysis of the system and therefore of data collection, in reality data collection is often driven by key issues/problems. This cannot exclude the possibility of enriching the analysis, at a later stage, adjusting the relevant boundaries of the area concerned. After all the whole process is cyclical. ICM uses the informed participation and cooperation of all stakeholders to assess the societal goals in a given coastal area, and to take actions towards meeting these objectives. ICM seeks, over the long-term, to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives, all within the limits set by natural dynamics.