MS research and the UN have planned to undertake the massive task of simulating the ecosystem of the entire world. The plan has been revealed in a recent Nature article titled “Ecosystems: Time to model all life on Earth”. The article is behind a paywall, but for those who can access it, the link goes here. Work on this project has been undertaken at the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and scientists from Microsoft Research and the WCMC are working together on this project.
The scientists working on this project specialize in biodiversity assessment, and claim that,
This type of model could radically improve our understanding of the biosphere and inform policy decisions about biodiversity and conservation.
As part of this project, the team of scientists will build General Ecosystem Models (GEMs), which will simulate environmental processes like reproduction, migration, death, and feeding. This will provide valuable statistical data to plan and design conservation efforts for the ecosystem. A similar model called the General Circulation models (GCMs) is already in place, which is used to simulate climate changes as well as oceanic changes across the world.
The project is focusing on development of a number of competitive and cooperative models instead of a single model. This will keep the development process competitive, and will create a number of simulations that can exchange ideas and improve over time.
Here is a short interview on Forest Dynamics by Drew Purves, who is also the head of the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group at Microsoft and a part of the GEMs project.