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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Modelling forests as social-ecological systems: A systematic comparison of agent-based approaches

Brady, Mark


The multifunctionality of forest systems calls for appropriately complex modelling approaches to capture social and ecosystem dynamics. Using a social-ecological systems framework, we review the functionality of 31 existing agent-based models applied to managed forests. Several applications include advanced cognitive and emotional decision-making, crucial for understanding complex sustainability challenges. However, far from all demonstrate representation of key elements in a social-ecological system like direct interactions, and dynamic representations of social and ecological processes. We conclude that agent-based approaches are adequately complex for simulating both social and ecological subsystems, but highlight three main avenues for further development: i) robust methodological standards for calibration and validation of agent-based approaches; ii) modelling of agent learning, adaptive governance and feedback loops; iii) coupling to ecological models such as dynamic vegetation models or species distribution models. We round-off by providing a set of questions to support social-ecological systems modelling choices.

Published in

Environmental Modelling and Software
2024, Volume: 175, article number: 105998

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
    Forest Science

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