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a simulation of a freshwater ecosystem


simulation type dynamic simulation based on a continuous model
target groups courses for freshwater management (Polytechnic and University level), (continuing) education courses for government officers, secondary education (biology)
model combination of several models for water resources management
publisher Van Hall Larenstein Training and Consultancy, Dept. of Simulations
year 2003
platform Windows 98, XP, Vista
design system/ engine generic system for educational simulations (Van Hall Instuut, Dept. of Simulations)
my connection educational advice, supervision, evaluation, adaptations to the model

The computer simulation program LAKE simulates a lake ecosystem. The simulation is meant to give students insight into the ecology and management of a tract of water. The didactic approach of computer simulation of natural systems offers a unique contribution to the field of environmental education. It provides a low-risk and low-cost learning environment in which consequences of decisions are immediately felt.

Didactic approach

The problems of pollution control in surface waters are an important feature of modern Environmental Science Education. Natural freshwater systems, like lakes, have a complex and dynamic nature. Teachers often find it hard to
help students understand the effects of control measures in a natural freshwater system, due to this nature.

Students fail to predict these effects when the underlying principles of lake ecology, in which many complex processes are interrelated, are taught in a purely theoretical way. In general, students need hands-on personal
experience, gained by active experimentation, in order to understand how a complex system works. However, in case of freshwater systems practical problems (e.g., time, scale, ethics, costs) obstruct experiments with real systems in the lecture room. Growing interest in a sustainable environment has motivated teachers and educational technologists to develop a practical and imaginative approach to tackle this problem.

Following this approach experiments with real lake systems are replaced by experiments with Lake 3.0, a well designed computer simulation. LAKE enables students to acquire knowledge in an active, individualised, way, by means of experimentation, evaluation and exploration. Furthermore, tools like LAKE provide them with the skill to use computer simulations for managing


In the model the most important aspects of several models for water resources management are integrated. Furthermore, the model describes several ecological processes that have not yet been described by lake-ecosystem
models so far. In the computer program, the mathematical model and an advanced, object oriented, user interface are combined. Following this approach the use of the original research models was extended to a use for the purpose of teaching lake ecology.


LAKE simulates a simplified lake in the temperate zone. The program comprises a mathematical model that calculates the progression in time of a large number of state variables, for example:
plants (diatoms, green algae, blue green algae, macrophytes)
animals (zooplankton, macrophytes, planktivorous fish, piscivorous fish)
nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in solution and in the sediment

A large number of parameters, representing the conditions under which the system operates, are adjustable, for example:
nutrient load from the catchment area
lake management
lake dimensions
climate (irradiation and temperature)
LAKE, a simulation of a freshwater ecosystem