Environment Explorer: Spatial Support System for the Integrated Assessment of Socio-Economic and Environmental Policies in the Netherlands


  • Guy Engelen Research Institute for Knowledge Systems, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Roger White Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Ton de Nijs National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherl


integrated assessment, spatial modelling, policy support system.


Environment Explorer is a system developed to support spatial scientists, planners and decision makers at the regional and national levels in the Netherlands to help them analyse a wide range of social, economic and environmental policies and their associated temporal and spatial dynamics. The core of this system consists of linked dynamic spatial models operating at both the macro- and the micro-geographical scales. At the macro scale, the modelling framework integrates several component sub models, representing the natural, social, and economic sub-systems. At the micro level, cellular automata based models determine the fate of individual parcels of land, based on institutional, physical and environmental factors as well as on the type of activities in their immediate neighbourhoods. The approach chosen enables the straightforward integration of detailed physical, environmental, and institutional characteristics as well as the particulars of the transportation infrastructure, and permits a very detailed representation of the evolving spatial system. As part of the policy support system, the models are supplemented with dedicated tools for interactive design, analysis and evaluation of the policy interventions and scenarios to be tried out. The system covers the entire territory of the Netherlands and represents processes at the national, the regional (40 economic regions), and the cellular (25 ha cells) levels. It runs on top of detailed GIS information and generates future land use and land cover for the period 2000 till 2030. The quality of the policies tried out is expressed in some 40 economic, social and environmental indicators available in the model as dynamic maps. The application has been developed over the past 5 years. It has been used at the national and the provincial level for the preparation of spatial policy documents. Some conclusions relative to the development and the use of the system are presented.