Call for Papers: Large-scale behavioural models of land use change

Special Issue: Large-scale behavioural models of land use change

Guest editors:

Calum Brown, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Tatiana Filatova, University of Twente; Birgit Müller, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ; Derek Robinson, University of Waterloo

SESMO is launching a call for a special issue on large-scale behavioural models of land use change. We are calling for contributions of scholars intending to present their latest research results on this topic. Submissions can be sent at any time, up until the end of December 2021.


Human activity is fundamentally reshaping the dynamics of the Earth System, with consequences that pose existential challenges to societies and ecosystems. Efforts to address these challenges of the Anthropocene era increasingly rely on computational models that simulate the cross-scale interactions of social, economic and environmental processes. For instance, land use and land use change, from field to global scales, result from decisions taken by individuals and shaped by social institutions, which rely on natural systems dynamics at various scales. However, today’s analyses of future changes in the Earth System provide scant detail about the basic processes underlying these changes. Human agency is reduced to economic determinism and scenario-based assumptions in selecting between land use options, while ecosystem dynamics are approximated at highly aggregate levels that obscure crucial interactions. These shortcomings seriously undermine the search for realistic, robust strategies to mitigate or adapt to global environmental change.

A number of different approaches have been proposed for better understanding and modelling of cross-scale dynamics in coupled social-ecological systems.  In particular, a clear need has been identified by the research community for a new generation of large-scale (continental to global) land use models that are based on human behavior, agency and behaviorally-rich representation of decision-making processes. Such models could be linked with large-scale biophysical models as well as mechanistic ecological models, but must first overcome the difficulties of identifying and simulating key cross-scale socio-ecological processes. Particularly challenging is the question of how to upscale locally-based models of human decision-making or whether to try and create “models of everywhere”. Only once these methodological challenges have been overcome will we be able to identify realistic pathways to sustainability that account for fundamental processes in human and natural systems in uncertain future conditions.

For this Special Issue, we welcome contributions dedicated to the better understanding and modelling of temporal or spatial scales in land use dynamics. These contributions can present theoretical or empirical analyses, methodological contributions, or relevant model developments, and will together build towards a robust agenda for future research in this field. Articles in the Special Issue could focus on:

  • Case study-based empirical research on land use dynamics, explicitly tackling different social scales;
  • Methodological contributions on the investigation and modelling of cross-scale dynamics (up-scaling and down-scaling methods);
  • Modelling of land use dynamics across scales and at large (continental-global) scales accounting for human agency;
  • New methods to link models covering different scales and human or natural systems;
  • Approaches to integrate behaviourally rich representation of human agency in large-scale models;
  • Representation of an interplay between individual decisions and social institutions (formal or informal) in land use change models;
  • Up-scaling of heterogeneity of individual decision strategies and local institutional contexts from case studies to larger geographical scales;

The Special Issue is supported by the joint GLP/AIMES Working Group on large scale behavioural models of land use change ( and the Human Dimensions Focus Research Group of the CSDMS (


The deadline for the submission of papers has been extended to the end of December 2021.

Note, any papers submitted before the deadline will be processed immediately.