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Modelling the Interactions between Ecological and Social Dynamics in Integrated Natural Resources Management The usefulness of Multi-Agent Systems (MAS). Several agents using or managing the resources hold by the environment. Some entities representing management units. A spatial grid.

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Modelling the Interactions between

Ecological and Social Dynamics

in Integrated Natural Resources Management

The usefulness of

Multi-Agent Systems (MAS)

Several agents using or managing the resources hold by the environment

Some entities

representing management units

A spatial grid

some entities holding natural resources

with their own dynamics

MAS and

Natural Resources Management

Mas and natural resources management
MAS and environment Natural Resources Management

  • Behaviours and interactions at different levels of organisation

  • Investigating collective organisation modes and collective decision making processes (testing contrasted scenarios)

  • A modelling approach to build common representations of a system shared by the stakeholders (scientists, local people, policy makers, politicians)

  • Adaptive models (run-time modifications) for adaptive management

A companion modelling approach

hypothesis environmentquestions

discussion of hypothesisnew questions

Experiments’ plan

A “Companion” Modelling Approach




Interacting with decision making processes
Interacting with environmentDecision Making Processes


Decision Making Processes



Which future for the causse m jan grasslands

Which future for the Causse M environmentéjan grasslands ?

A multi-agent approach to solve environment and

land management problems



The current land dynamics

1950 environment



The current land dynamics

cereals, hay


Natural increase of

Woodland pines



Historical context
Historical context environment

  • Plantations or spontaneous encroachment of pine are not manage

  • The encroachment and the reafforestations of adults are or enter in phase of dispersion

  • Original grasslands(anthropological origin) are threatened

  • Breeders, foresters and defenders of the nature express multiple and often conflicting social demands

pine environment









The questions
The questions environment

  • How to imagine landscape changes in a man-made natural environment according to contrasting strategies of land management ?

  • How to account simultaneously for productive and heritage stakes ?

  • How to support the concertation between agents concerned by the same ecological dynamics ?

The ecological process 1 environment

  • Encroachment as a pioneer front from

  • …native woodlands ...

  • … or afforestations

The ecological process 2 environment

  • Encroachment from isolated

  • … > 30 year-old black pines ...

  • … > 15 year-old Scots pines

Dispersal model environment

Scots pine over15 years-old

or black pine over 30 years-old

Any cell far from the seed-bearers

but located inside their seed catchment

has a probability to be invaded related

to grazing presssure

Seed catchment 2

Any grassland cell under

the wind is invaded

Any cell where mature trees are growing up

and located at the eastern edge of a catchment

is capable to send seeds

to the following catchment

ridge 2

ridge 1

The agent based approach
The agent-based approach environment

  • To represent the bare zone of the Causse Méjan on the basis of the current scientific knowledge on the ecological dynamics and the pratices of the local agents (MAS 1)

  • To make this formalisation accessible to the local agents and share a certain representation of the system with them (Simplified MAS)

  • To stimulate reactions of stakeholders facing a virtual situation that is close to their reality (pine encroachment) (Role game)

  • To collectively imagine possible management scenarios and to assess their consequences (MAS 1)

The mas conception

tree environment


tree + shrub

tree + shrub + grassland

shrub + grassland

tree + grassland



the MAS conception

  • A territory defined by combining vegetation structures that shelter different resources according to the agents

4 ha/cell

The mas conception1
the MAS conception environment

  • Three categories of agents with diverse objectives but which practices modify clearly the pine tree dynamics

  • Farmers who wish to continue living from sheep husbandry on the Causse

  • Foresters who wish to make profit from investments realised 30 years ago

  • Conservationists who are missioned to conserve a very rich but very instable environment

Scots pine environment



100 à 300

50 à 100


50 à 100

30 à 50


20 à 50

10 à 30


20 à 50

10 à 30





10 à 20

1 à 5







Productive impacts

Sheep farmer (ewes/cell/year)

Forester (m3/ha)

big trees, high density

big trees, low density

big + small trees, high density

big + small trees, low density

small trees, low density

a few big trees

a few small trees


disappearance of environmentGentiana clusii

disappearance of Orchis coriophora

no disappearance

no disappearance

Ecological impact on protected flora

big trees, high density

disappearance of Saponaria bellidifolia

disappearance of Gagea pratensis, Adonis vernalis

big trees, low density

big + small trees, high density

disappearance of all protected species

big + small trees, low density

small trees, low density

disappearance of Gagea villosa

a few big trees

a few small trees


Ecological impact on fauna environment

+ than 10 % of pine canopy cover on 1 cell

+ than 25 % on 6 cells

+ than 50 % on 6000 cells

Modelling farmers
Modelling farmers environment

  • A farm defined by an equilibrium between crops, rangelands and forests

  • A certain amount of work for controlling pine trees

  • Sheep rearing practices using more or less rangelands according to their production system

  • Forestry pratices linked with the availability of incentives

  • Land tenure fixed until retirement

  • A plausible future for the farm after retirement

Farmers actions

Uprooting or mowing environment

Thinning or felling

Evaluating range condition



or not

on pine trees

Adapting grazing pressure


Consuming forage


Farmers actions

Negociating or not

with the partners


Shrubland environment




with pines




with young pines

Schematic representation of a Farm

Paddocks environment

Modelling conservationists
Modelling conservationists environment

  • A landscape to conserve defined by a strong dominance of « open land»

  • Law regulations

  • An ability to get financial support for the control of pine encroachment

  • A clear vision of the fauna, flora and landscape stakes

  • A small owned land

  • An ability to influence public policy

Conservationists actions

Locating zones with high heritage value environment

or farmers with good practices


Moving to the most intesresting zone


Uprooting the pine trees



Visiting other problematic cells

Conservationists actions

Deciding or not

to continue to

clear pine trees

Negociating or not

with the partners

Balance / survey

Modelling foresters
Modelling foresters environment

  • Management units determined according to the origin of the pine stands (afforestation, natural encroachment)

  • Regimented woodlands

  • Woodlands divided into woodlots in order to plan the forest management more easily

  • An ability to liberate capital and work force to plant and exploit pine trees

  • A productive vision of pine trees

  • A patchy and extending land tenure

Foresters actions

Planting or not environment

Evaluating pine stands condition


Deciding or not

to go on

producing pine

Scheduling an operation calendar


Making profit from timber production

Thinning and/or Harvesting

Foresters actions


or not with

the partners


7 land management strategies
7 land management strategies environment

  • let nature work

  • let farmers and foresters work

  • let save the heritage hotspots

  • let block the ecological process

  • Let associate naturalists and farmers

  • Let develop silvopastoralism

  • Let recreate the steppe

Comparing three scenarios environment

according to the “vegetation”

point of view

Let Nature



with naturalists

Let recreate

the steppe

Different points of view environment

for a same simulation

Cutting small pines

(farmers - PNC)

Timber production


Heritage interest


The role playing game conception
The role playing game conception environment

  • The land is described by a cellular-automata able to simulate the vegetation dynamics according to the applied management

  • the players, on the spatial entities they are used to manage and according to the results of the negotiations they decide to conduct as their territory is changing

Simplification of the model
Simplification of the model environment

  • The constraints of a ludic application

    • to reduce the time of playing and the role of the computers

    • to simulate at least 25 years of vegetation dynamics

    • to warranty the participation of 4 sheep farmers (1 per type) 2 naturalists and 1 forester (maximum 10, 5 et 2)

  • The need to simplify the representations

    • a smaller land

    • same size and characteristics of the farms

    • simple indicators adapted to the players uses

  • The adaptation of the rules

    • same rules on vegetation dynamics

    • completely open negotiations

The game land
The game land environment

  • 2000 cells (5 ha/cell) defining...

  • a serie of pine seed dispersion catchments submitted to a nort-western wind,

  • and agreggated into 10 sheep farms composed of 50 ha of croplands, 8 paddocks of 50 ha of rangelands, shrublands and woodlands

  • 3 private forests and 1 hunting ground

  • grasslands and croplands shelter many endangered species

forest environment









Natural resources

each color corresponds to the overlapping of vegetation layers

shrublands environment


a paddock

grasslands invaded

by pine trees



grasslands spotted

with pine trees

The farmer land

indffp environment




j coupes


The conservationist markers

The game setting 1 environment

After a brief introduction

to the game rules

meanwhile the PNC analyses

the land on the computer

each farmer receives

a farm ...

…and moves to his table

with an observer... order to elaborate

the grazing calendar

10 minutes later

the grazing calendar

is put into the computer

and the land dynamics

is simulated

The game setting 2 environment

Each farmer receives

a new map of

his farm

and thinks about

the strategy to develop

with the pine trees

meanwhile the PNC

set up a negotiation strategy

Then for 10 minutes

naturalists, foresters

and farmers negotiate

Lastly the operations

planned during the negotiation

are put into the computer

A role playing game (RPG)... environment

  • To make easier the modelling of the interaction between players

  • To share collectively a representation of the pine encroachment process

  • To leave totally open the players creativity to develop original strategies of operation and negotiation

The feed-back between MAS and RPG environment

  • The MAS permits to test several options of the pine dynamics management and to visualise it according to different view-points

  • The coupling with a role playing game permits to imagine plausible adaptation strategies of the agents practices to an unusual ecological process

  • and to elaborate new markers into the MAS in order to better account for the way the agents perceive the pine trees

Perspectives environment

  • to compare the impact of contrasting land planning policies on the state of Nature and on the dynamics of farm and forestry activities

  • to stimulate a collective awareness of environmental problems and to identify the main conflictual points between the agents

  • to support long term planning during collective negotiations on the management of so-called natural resources

Reality environment

  • the National Park created a fund to support the preventive control of pine encroachment

  • The Chambre d’Agriculture and the Communauté de Communes set up a collective reflexion on the problem of pine trees

  • A Local Concerted Management Plan was elaborated and financed to pay collectively planned operations

  • The Forest Service and the National Park are looking for new procedures to permit anticipated interventions on stratgic ridges

1. environment

Expert knowledge





Social validation

Collective and adaptive learning

An Approach Combining an Agent-Based Model

and a Role-Playing Game





Role game

Combining abm and rpg
Combining ABM and RpG environment

  • to produce and collect information and knowledge about behaviours,

  • to present and explain the model to the stakeholders, and to validate it,

  • to test scenarios and compare them, by the mean of simulation

Building a common representation


Land allocation between grazing environment

and rice cropping activities in Senegal

Negotiations between a shepherd and

a forester in a Mediterranean ecosystem

Discussions between foresters,

shepherds and a national park

in an ecosystem facing pine encroachment

(South of France),

Agricultural land-use in North-Vietnam,


Irrigated schemes in Senegal

Environmental mediation about

phytogenetics resources

management in Madagascar