About GAIA GAIA Case Studies Global GIS Agenda 21 Country Data Model Database

Introduction to the GAIA Project The Conceptual Framework

Project Summary

The GAIA INCO-DC (Technological Cooperation with Developing Countries) international R&D Project is a collaboration of ESS-ACA with partner institutions in the UK, Italy, Argentina, China, Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. ESS-ACA is the lead contractor and project coordinator.

Overall, GAIA aims to provide innovative tools and methods to promote the conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources, compatible with long-term equitable economic growth and enhancement of productive capacity which is environmentally acceptable. At the same time, and through the methodology used to address the first objective, it aims to integrate developing countries, in particular those which have attained a higher level of development, into the global information society; to combine research skills established in developing countries institutions with their EU counterparts and to facilitate the growth of an information and communications area allowing developing countries to participate in solving their regional problems with regard to development.

The primary vehicle of GAIA is information technology, and in particular, a multi-media information system accessible through the Internet. Designed to support both classroom teaching as well as distance learning, the system combines a workstation based server part with a WWW information system, addressing environmental issues and problems both at a global scale as well as through a number of local and regional case studies .


GAIA builds on a number of precursor projects, including:

  •  EARSS ,   the Environmental Assessment and reporting System developed for and with UNEP/GRID and ENRIC, Bangkok, for Asia-Pacific;
  •  MEXSES ,   a rule-based expert system for environmental impact assessment; and
  •  CLIMEX ,   a global change information system developed in collaboration with CIESIN.


EARSS provides an easy to use, fully interactive set of tools to define and assess state-of-the-environment indicators within an issues and model oriented framework, based on a large volume of underlying data sets.

It supports efficient access to a very large volume of environmental and development related socio-economic data, organized by issues, geographically, or in terms of processes and models.

It provides tools to browse through this information in hypertext style, extract and display specific data items for analysis, eg., basic statistics, trends, and comparison, eg., across countries, or between indicators. The system allows the user to interactively design graphical displays such as diagrams and topical maps of this information. Each information item is always presented within a context for evaluation, eg., a regional or global distribution, time series, or policy objectives and target values.

EARSS supports SoE Reporting in terms of issues (organized by alternative frameworks, including Agenda 21) defined in terms of a set of indicators.

As an open system, EARSS can be user configured in terms of its data and map sets, the conceptual framework for organizing and grouping indicators, the rules or models for assessment, and the entire hypertext system.

A number of reports and papers describe the conceptual framework behind the project, summarize the state-of-the-art of EIA and state-of-the-environment reporting, and address the related topic of early warning in environmental planning.

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