An open framework for agent based modelling of agricultural land use change

D Murray-Rust, DT Robinson, E Guillem, E Karali, M Rounsevell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing interest in creating empirically grounded agent based models (ABMs) to simulate land use change at a variety of spatio-temporal scales. The development of land use change models is challenging, as there is a need to connect representations of human behavioural processes to simulations of the biophysical environment. This paper presents a new agent-based modelling framework (Aporia) that has the goal of reducing the complexity and difficulty of constructing high-fidelity land use models. Building on earlier conceptual developments for modelling land use change and the provision of ecosystem services, Aporia was designed to be modular, flexible and open, using a declarative, compositional approach to create complex models from subcomponents. The framework can be tightly or loosely coupled with multiple vegetation models, it can be set up to evaluate a range of ecosystem service indicators, and it can be calibrated for a range of different landscape-scale case studies and modelling styles. The framework is released under an Open Source licence, and can be freely re-used and modified to form the basis of new models. We illustrate this with two case studies implemented using Aporia, exploring different socio-economic scenarios and behavioural characteristics on the land use decisions of Swiss and Scottish farmers. We also discuss the benefits of frameworks in terms of their flexibility, expandability, verification and transparency. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Cited By :25

Export Date: 14 April 2019


Correspondence Address: Murray-Rust, D.; School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; email: [email protected]


  • Agent based modelling
  • Ecosystem services
  • Land use/land cover change
  • Modelling frameworks
  • Open source


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