A cultural evolutionary agent-based model of land-use change in the Treasure Valley region of Idaho

Authors: Vicken Hillis*, Boise State University, Kendra Kaiser, Boise State University, Alejandro Flores, Boise State University
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Land Use, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: cultural evolution, land-use change, social learning, agent-based model
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agent-based models are an increasingly common means of examining the complex adaptive systems that make up human-environment interactions such as land use change. Cultural evolution is a formal body of theory that describes mechanisms of cultural change as the result of the transmission of ideas and beliefs among people via different forms of social learning such as imitation. Because cultural evolution provides an ultimate explanation for human behavior, it can serve as a synthetic foundation for representing behavior in agent-based models. Despite this potential, this perspective is relatively underused in agent-based models of human-environment interactions. Here, we develop a cultural evolutionary agent-based model of land use change in the Treasure Valley of Idaho, a region undergoing rapid demographic and environmental change. Our model represents land use change as a function of agent decision making. In particular, we examine changes in land use that result from agents using a variety of individual and social learning strategies, such as imitating other successful individuals or conforming to the majority. We demonstrate how this evolutionary approach provides a synthesis of several other theoretical foundations of behavior more commonly used in models, and often considered to be distinct. We also discuss the potential for coupling bottom-up mechanisms of land-use change at fine scales, as produced by agent-based models, with top-down descriptions of land-use change at broad scales, as generated by integrated assessment models.

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