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Welcome to the website forAlexey A. Voinov:Systems Science and Modeling for Ecological Economics.

Systems Science and Modeling for Ecological Economics

For centuries Mankind was managing its household, its environment. To figure out how to do it, economics was invented. Much later we became concerned with understanding and knowing the household, which is the task of ecology. The consequences of management without understanding are clear, the impact we have on this planet is of geological scale and may be irreversible. We need ecological economics to manage with understanding, to know what we are doing, to account for the many indirect and delayed effects of our management.

Modeling is a powerful tool to this end and models vary enormously. They can be simple or complex, conceptual or numerical, formal or verbal.But for models to be good they need to be based on a culture of modeling and a basis of good modeling practice.That is the central message of this book.If we have common standards for our models, it will be easier to communicate ideas, to find common ground, to avoid conflict and to make the right decisions.

Modeling cannot really be taught, only learned, it is a skill that develops with practice. That skill is learned from hands-on experience and involvement in all the major stages from data acquisition to model building and testing. There is aweb course to support this book.

Click here to check out the web course. You will be required to register, but this is free and is needed to keep track of your exercises that you may wish to submit.

You will need to obtain trial or demo versions of some of the modeling software that the book introduces. Or you may end up with full versions of that software if you like what you get. You will then download the models that are discussed in the book, follow the story with the model in hand and do the tests, change the parameters, explore, ask questions, and try to find answers.It will be much more fun that way, and it will be much more useful.

You will also get a chance to do the exercises that you found in the book. As long as I don't get overwhelmed, you will be getting feedback on your answers. I hope that eventually the students and readers will be able to help each other do the studies and solve the exercises.Read the ABOUT section to see what I mean.

Here you will find most of the links that were referenced in the book.Also I will be fixing the ones that went out of service after the book already went to press.

1 Models and Systems

  1. Model
  2. System
  3. Hierarchy
  4. The modeling process
  5. Model classifications
  6. Systems thinking

Examples of physical models are wind tunnels built at NASA or a river bed that was built at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) in Minnesota.

The tragic thalidomide story is described here.

There are quite a few implementations of the Game of Life. Check out this one or another one. Make sure you see the applet that starts if you press the ENJOY LIFE button on the left.

The old Everglades Landscape Model web site is still here. But just recently Carl Fitz has developed a much better one, which you can find here.

To read more about the Daisy World model go here.Or check out this nice Flash animation.

For details about the MIMES project see the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics web site.

There are quite a few web sites on Systems Thinking. For example click here for a good overview of the field. Another good introduction is available here.

2 The Art of Modeling

  1. Conceptual model
  2. Modeling software
  3. Model formalization

Examples of UML class diagrams for systems can be found on the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASS) web site. See here for example.

The Visual Paradigmtools designed to create UML diagrams is here.

The Register of Ecological Models (REM) is a meta-database for models in ecology. Click here to check it out.

The WEAP ("Water Evaluation And Planning") system is here.

The HydroLogics is where OASIS was developed. The web site is here.

The links to numerous software packages used for modeling are below:

Stella isee systems (formerly HPS) GO Free Player and 1 month trial version Mac/Win
Vensim Ventana Systems GO Free Vensim PLE (personal learning edition) Mac/Win
Powersim Powersim GO Free player and trial version Win
Madonna UC Berkeley GO Free Run Time version Win/Mac
ModelMaker4 Exeter Software (formerly Cherwell) GO No free versions Win
Simile Simulistics (formerly open-source AME, Agroforestry Modelling Environment) GO Free Evaluation Edition Mac/Win/ Linux
Extend Imagine-That GO Free Demo Win/Mac
GoldSim GoldSim Technology Group GO Free evaluation & student version Win
Simulink The Mathworks GO Free Trial and Web-demo Win/Mac/UNIX
MATLAB The MathWorks GO Free trial version Mac/Win/Unix
Mathematica Wolfram Research GO Free web seminars and demos Mac/Win/Linux/Unix
To see how parameters impact the functional response using Mathematica you can check out this link
OpenMI OpenMI Association GO Open Source Platform independent
SME UVM GO Open Source Mac/Linux/Unix
SAMT ZALF GO Open Source Linux
Swarm Swarm Development Group GO Open Source any platform
EcoSwarm is an extension library of code that can be used for individual-based ecological models (GO)
Repast ROAD (Repast Organization for Architecture and Development) GO Open Source any platform
MASON George Mason University GO Open Source any platform.
Cormas Cirad GO Freeware ..
OpenStarLogo MIT GO Open Source Mac/Win
NetLogo Uri Wilensky (Northwestern University) GO Freeware Mac/Win/Linux

The Simcity computer game is an excellent example of how a model can become a gamesee this link

3 Essential Math

  1. Time
  2. Space
  3. Structure
  4. Building blocks

4 Model Analysis

  1. Sensitivity analysis
  2. Model calibration
  3. Model testing
  4. Conclusions

To learn more about climate change and models that are used to understand it check out the Realclimate Blog.The story that we describe in this chapter is posted here.

5 Simple Model, Complex Behavior

  1. Classic predator-prey model
  2. Modifications of the classic model
  3. Trophic chains
  4. Spatial model of a predator-prey system
  5. Conclusions

Simile can be found at the Simulistics Inc. web site. You can download a trial version that will let you run the models but will not allow saving your changes.

The other software package that we used was the Spatial Modeling Environment (SME). It's an open source project on SourceForge. Some example projects and latest developments related to the SME can be found at here. The SME userguide is here.

Some other examples of Stella models that work with SME are collected in the Library of Hydro-Ecological Modules (LHEM).

The amazing story about the effect of blue crab on dune formation is reported by Cheryl Dybas on an NSF web site.

There are special software packages developed to study population dynamics and metapopulations. RAMAS is one those (see here).

6 Water

  1. Modeling as a hydrology primer
  2. Unit model
  3. Spatial model
  4. Conclusions

In many cases you can find meteorological data for your area at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

There are several watershed models that may be worth while to explore:

One of the latest HSPF applications developed by the Chesapeake Bay program is here.

Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI)is the source for digital data on hydrologic stream network, roads, houses, landuse, engineered catchments, pipeline network and inlet points that was used in the RAN project. See here for more info about LIDAR remote sensing techniques. The spatial analysis for the RAN project is reported in more details here.

7 Adding Socio-Economics

  1. Demographics
  2. Dynamics on the market
  3. Corporate rule
  4. Sustainability
  5. The end of cheap oil
  6. The World

The basic demand - supply - price theory is discussed in most classical books on microeconomics, and at a variety of web pages (e.g. here or there).

The Stella version of the GUMBO model can be downloaded from here.

With special focus on ecosystem services, GUMBO has recently morphed into the Multi-scale Integrated Models of Ecosystem Services (MIMES).It has been translated into Simile and is now available here.

Costanza described the four possible futures in Costanza, R. 2000. Visions of alternative (unpredictable) futures and their use in policy analysis. Conservation Ecology 4(1):5. [online].

Another effort in modeling and quantifying ecosystem services is the Natural Capital Project that is currently underway at Stanford University, with collaboration with the The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. The project also aims at developing a full suite of tools that will allow land-use decision makers and investors to weigh the full value of ecosystem services that nature provides for human life (website).

The story of the small organic fertilizer producer, TerraCycle, is reported here.

Voinov, A., 2007 Understanding and communicating sustainability: global versus regional perspectives. Environ. Dev. and Sustain.

The Oil Drum blog

Wallerstein, I., 2003. The Ecology and the Economy: What is Rational? Paper delivered at Keynote Session of Conference, World System History and Global Environmental change," Lund, Sweden, 19-22 September 2003.

Jevons, S., 1865. A Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coalmines.

8 Optimization

  1. Introduction
  2. Resource management
  3. Fishpond
  4. Landscape optimization
  5. Optimality principles

For more details on the Chernobyl accident see the Nuclear Energy Agency website , where you can download the report "Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impacts. 2002 Update of Chernobyl: Ten Years On". A good brief account of the accident is given here.More links can be found here.

9 The Practice of Modeling

  1. Why models don't work
  2. Participatory and adaptive modeling
  3. Open-source, web technologies and decision support
  4. Conclusions

Climate Change Fiasco

To read more about climate change you can start with the pages from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

For more in-depth analysis, go to the Real Climate blog.

The quote from Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, that there are some processes that "are just not well understood, and because of that have not been incorporated into climate models" is here.

The Newsweek article "The Truth About Denial", by Sharon Begley. Aug. 13, 2007, can be found here.

On Participatory Modeling

The NetLogo module called HubNet (see here) allows several people to work on the model sitting behind different computers at different places.

A collection of participatory projects that use this tool is here.

The Army Corps Shared Vision Planning (SVP) process has its website.

On Open Source

Free Software Foundation ( FSF).

Open Source Development Network (OSDN).

SourceForge - a powershop for open software development.

Some key writers on open source and general public license ideas are Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond. Much of the work on open source can be found on the web:

On Community Modeling

CMAS - Community Modeling and Analysis SystemFunding

ESMF -Earth System Modeling Framework

CCSM -Community Climate System Model

CSTM - National Community Sediment-Transport Model - Woods Hole

CCMP -Chesapeake Community Model Program- Chesapeake Research Consortium

WATer and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) -Network

CSDMS - Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System

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