Agent based models of landscape scale socio-ecological systems

Symposium organised by:

Jasper van Vliet, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Shah Jamal Alam, University of Edinburgh, UK.


This symposium will draw on the wealth of developments in agent based modelling of socio-ecological systems with a focus on the interactions between people and landscapes. There is a widespread use of agent-based models in socio-ecological systems and this symposium will strengthen links between this work and the landscape ecology community.


An understanding of human behaviour is essential to understanding the ways in which landscapes will change in the future, as human decision-making is a key driver affecting regional and global land change. Agent-based modelling has emerged as one of the key methodologies for developing simulations of the interactions between people and their environment. Drawing on techniques from social sciences and ecological modelling, agent-based modelling allows the investigation of several key issues including: the effects of policy on decision-making; simulating agents that function in different roles or sectors and representing heterogeneity within each role; feedbacks between agents such as learning, imitation and communication; and feedbacks between environmental change and agent actions.

A current wave of development is focussing on increasingly empirically driven models, which can incorporate a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data. This opens up the “black box” of modelling through engagement with stakeholders including participatory processes, which involve the human actors in the design, development and validation of models. These empirical agent based models can be coupled with other types of models including cellular automata, system dynamics, global equilibrium, and statistical models that simulate vegetation, hydrology, crop productivity, etc. in order to investigate human responses to a range of drivers including climate, policy, economics and societal change.

Particular topics of interest related to agent-based models include: landscape case studies; development of participatory processes and validation;  generalisation from case studies to wider areas; exploring policy options; linking with other modelling approaches; and tools, frameworks and techniques for developing models.


A special issue of a journal will be developed based upon the symposium. Web pages providing tutorial materials will be hosted on the ialeUK website. The symposium will create a modelling nexus within IALE, bringing together different researchers, supporting interdisciplinary, cross-cutting discourse.

Oral presentations