Representing Complexity in Mountain Social-Ecological Models: Linking Design and Application

Authors: Cara Steger*, Colorado State University, Shana Hirsch, University of Washington, Chris Cosgrove, Oregon State University, Sarah Inman, University of Washington, Eric Nost, University of Guelph, Xoco Shinbrot, Colorado State University, Jessica Thorn, University of York, Bettina Weibel, ETH Zurich, Anne Nolin, University of Nevada, Catherine Tucker, University of Florida, Dan Brown, University of Washington, Adrienne Gret-Regamey, ETH Zurich, Julia Klein, Colorado State University
Topics: Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Mountain Environments
Keywords: Social-ecological systems, dynamic modeling, mountain geography, decision support, participatory modeling
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Mountain landscapes are characterized by high spatial and temporal heterogeneity, requiring fine-scale data to understand and model them accurately across scales that are relevant both socially and ecologically. Yet, these data are lacking in many mountain systems, and there remains little evidence to suggest that highly realistic models using fine-scale data necessarily translate to improved decision-making outcomes in mountains. To better understand how model design and data structures relate to model applications and outcomes, we reviewed 75 peer-reviewed articles with case study applications of dynamic social-ecological models in mountain regions. This paper investigates how these models are designed, including the types of model used (e.g., agent-based, systems dynamic, Bayesian network), degree of public participation, and types of data informing it (i.e., social, biophysical, or social-ecological) and connects this to the purposes for which the model was used ( i.e., system understanding, prediction, decision support, or learning), including the form of outreach to policy makers. Our results describe trends in the types of models and data that are used in participatory approaches and policy outreach in mountains, contributing to ongoing debates around the degree of realism needed for a model to inform decision-making and stakeholder learning.

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