Large-Scale Behavioural Models of Land Use Change 



The working group will support the development of the next generation of large-scale (global to continental/national scales), land-use models that are based on human behaviour, agency and decision-making processes. The purpose of this approach is to explore a wide range of key research (and policy) questions at the nexus of food, ecosystems, water, climate and energy. This will support understanding of adaptation and mitigation processes within the land system in which the land system is used as an exemplar of other socio-ecological systems. The working group will create an alternative to the current range of ‘top-down’ global models (based on macro-economics) and thus, will provide a working laboratory to test theories of human decision making, and undertake social simulation experiments in a globally (inter-)connected world, i.e. taking account of telecoupling. This includes new representations of institutional processes and their relationships with local land users. We also envisage coupling of large-scale, land-use models with other models types, such as Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs), biodiversity models and/or climate emulators to explore a wide range of environmental change drivers and to evaluate the consequences of these for ecosystem services. In practice, we will work towards a common ‘modelling framework’, or a suite of models operating within a common structure. This reflects the many different ways of modelling land use change processes, especially with respect to theories of land-use decision-making. We will explore alternative realisations of these decisional processes within the common modelling framework. All model results will be made available to the broader community through an online portal.

Objectives and Goals

The overall goal of the working group is to support the creation of the next generation of large-scale, land-use change models that take account of human behaviour, agency and decision-making processes. The specific objectives are to:

  • Construct a large-scale, modelling framework that allows coupling of models of the various sub-components of the land system, e.g. decision making, global trade, biophysical responses, and institutions;
  • Experiment with different models of the land user, decision process based on alternative decision theories;
  • Design and implement new models of institutions (public policy organisations) and their interactions with land users;
  • Integrate the collective processes evident within communities and societies that moderate individual behaviour, e.g. knowledge exchange, social learning, education;
  • Explore the effects of tele-connections on global land systems, e.g. trade, knowledge exchange, migration, urbanisation;
  • Evaluate these new modelling approaches against observational data from different sources, e.g. case studies, remote sensing;
  • Explore the impacts of future environmental change scenarios (climate and socio-economic change) on the land system, and the adaptive learning of land users;
  • Quantify the relationships between the land system, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, and the consequences of these relationships for ecosystem services;
  • Foster an active and cooperating community of socio-ecological system modellers.

Working Group Coordinators


Mark Rounsevell

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

Calum Brown

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

Tatiana Filatova


Maja Schlüter

Stockholm Resilience Center, Sweden

Working Group Steering Committee

 The following members of our group also serve on the steering committee:

Almut Arneth
Michael Barton
Dan Brown
Alan Di Vittorio
Dan Faith
Alejandro Flores
Roslyn Henry
Maoyi Huang
Albert Kettner
Peter Lawrence
Carsten Lemmen
Marco Madella
Christine Metzger
Birgit Mueller
Gary Polhill
Derek Robinson
Kimberly Rogers
Isaac Ullah
Sander van der Leeuw
Peter Verburg
Chris Vernon

This working group is a joint working group with the Global Land Programme.