An Ontology Design Pattern for Surface Water Features (Sinha et al., 2014)

Sinha et al. (2014) aimed to create a widely-applicable, foundational ontology for the classification of surface water features to aid in database interoperability. The authors do this by distilling surface water features into (near-)universally recognizable elements in two distinct and separate classes: Dry and Wet. Wet classes are contained within the physical bounds of the Dry features. By doing this, they base the pattern on physical properties of the landscape rather than properties of the surface water features themselves which can be variably interpreted between culture, region, or occupation.

Developing this sort of foundational standardization is important for database interoperability, user-friendliness, and intercultural ontological adaptability. The authors have done well in explaining both the limitations and the abilities of this pattern and where the pattern may be expanded to accommodate ontological differences or situational needs.

I think that the extent to which the authors were able to abstract these concepts is very impressive, as well as how expandable they have been able to make this system of organization. It is good that they have emphasized the expandability aspect of the pattern rather than trying to create a new standard for hydrological databases. A criticism that I have is only where the pattern cannot be applied, at least not as effectively; both areas were touched on in the article, but it cannot be applied to snow- or ice-cover, and it is much more complicated in wetlands where boundaries are blurry and permeable. This makes it much less useful in areas where water is the dominant landscape feature and it could be most useful.

One Response to “An Ontology Design Pattern for Surface Water Features (Sinha et al., 2014)”

  1. Sieber says:

    Nice catch. I wonder if the authors had stuck in their minds water as necessarily liquid. But, as you suggest, it makes the ontology less suitable for extension into temporal space.