I hoped it would be quicker than previous papers, but the review process of the ‘Mind, the Gap’ manuscript I worked on with John Wainwright hasn’t been particularly fast. I guess that’s just how it goes with special issues. I’ll discuss some of the topics we touch on in the paper in a future post. For now here’s the abstract – look out for the full paper on the ESPL website in the next couple of months.
Mind, the Gap in Landscape-Evolution Modelling
John Wainwright and James Millington
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms (Forthcoming)
Despite an increasing recognition that human activity is currently the dominant force modifying geomorphic landscapes, and that this activity has been increasing through the Holocene, there has been little integrative work to evaluate human interactions with geomorphic processes. We argue that agent-based models (ABMs) are a useful tool for overcoming the limitations of existing, highly empirical approaches. In particular, they allow the integration of decision-making into process-based models and provide a heuristic way of evaluating the compatibility of knowledge gained from a wide range of sources, both within and outwith the discipline of geomorphology. The application of ABMs to geomorphology is demonstrated from two different perspectives. The SPASIMv1 (Special Protection Area SIMulator version 1) model is used to evaluate the potential impacts of land-use change – particularly in relation to wildfire and subsequent soil conditions – over a decadal timescale from the present day to the mid-21st century. It focuses on the representation of farmers with traditional versus commercial perspectives in central Spain, and highlights the importance of land-tenure structure and historical contingencies of individuals’ decision making. CYBEROSION, on the other hand, considers changes in erosion and deposition over the scale of at least centuries. It represents both wild and domesticated animals and humans as model agents, and investigates the interactions of them in the context of early agriculturalists in southern France in a prehistoric context. We evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the ABM approach, and consider some of the major challenges. These challenges include potential process scale mis-matches, differences in perspective between investigators from different disciplines, and issues regarding model evaluation, analysis and interpretation. If the challenges can be overcome, this fully-integrated approach will provide geomorphology a means to conceptualize soundly the study of human-landscape interactions.