Jump to Main Content
Sensitivity Analysis of a Land-Use Change Model with and without Agents to Assess Land Abandonment and Long-Term Re-Forestation in a Swiss Mountain Region
- Brändle, Julia Maria, Langendijk, Gaby, Peter, Simon, Brunner, Sibyl Hanna, Huber, Robert
- Land 2015 v.4 no.2 pp. 475-512
- abandoned land, climate change, decision making, economic sectors, ecosystem services, farmers, forests, human behavior, issues and policy, labor, land use change, models, opportunity costs, reforestation, socioeconomics, surveys
- Land abandonment and the subsequent re-forestation are important drivers behind the loss of ecosystem services in mountain regions. Agent-based models can help to identify global change impacts on farmland abandonment and can test policy and management options to counteract this development. Realigning the representation of human decision making with time scales of ecological processes such as reforestation presents a major challenge in this context. Models either focus on the agent-specific behavior anchored in the current generation of farmers at the expense of representing longer scale environmental processes or they emphasize the simulation of long-term economic and forest developments where representation of human behavior is simplified in time and space. In this context, we compare the representation of individual and aggregated decision-making in the same model structure and by doing so address some implications of choosing short or long term time horizons in land-use modeling. Based on survey data, we integrate dynamic agents into a comparative static economic sector supply model in a Swiss mountain region. The results from an extensive sensitivity analysis show that this agent-based land-use change model can reproduce observed data correctly and that both model versions are sensitive to the same model parameters. In particular, in both models the specification of opportunity costs determines the extent of production activities and land-use changes by restricting the output space. Our results point out that the agent-based model can capture short and medium term developments in land abandonment better than the aggregated version without losing its sensitivity to important socio-economic drivers. For comparative static approaches, extensive sensitivity analysis with respect to opportunity costs, i.e., the measure of benefits forgone due to alternative uses of labor is essential for the assessment of the impact of climate change on land abandonment and re-forestation in mountain regions.