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Methods and approaches to modelling the Anthropocene

Methods and approaches to modelling the Anthropocene
Methods and approaches to modelling the Anthropocene
The ‘Anthropocene’ concept provides a conceptual framework that encapsulates the current global situation in which society has an ever-greater dominating influence on Earth System functioning. Simulation models used to understand earth system dynamics provide early warning, scenario analysis and evaluation of environmental management and policies. This paper aims to assess the extent to which current models represent the Anthropocene and suggest ways forward. Current models do not fully reflect the typical characteristics of the Anthropocene, such as societal influences and interactions with natural processes, feedbacks and system dynamics, tele-connections, tipping points, thresholds and regime shifts. Based on an analysis of current model representations of Anthropocene dynamics, we identify ways to enhance the role of modeling tools to better help us understand Anthropocene dynamics and address sustainability issues arising from them. To explore sustainable futures (‘safe and operating spaces’), social processes and anthropogenic drivers of biophysical processes must be incorporated, to allow for a spectrum of potential impacts and responses at different societal levels. In this context, model development can play a major role in reconciling the different epistemologies of the disciplines that need to collaborate to capture changes in the functioning of socio-ecological systems. Feedbacks between system functioning and underlying endogenous drivers should be represented, rather than assuming the drivers to be exogenous to the modelled system or stationary in time and space. While global scale assessments are important, the global scale dynamics need to be connected to local realities and vice versa. The diversity of stakeholders and potential questions requires a diversification of models, avoiding the convergence towards single models that are able to answer a wide range of questions, but without sufficient specificity. The novel concept of the Anthropocene can help to develop innovative model representations and model architectures that are better suited to assist in designing sustainable solutions targeted at the users of the models and model results
complex system models, simulation, scenarios, feedbacks, emergence, socio-ecological systems
0959-3780
1-14
Verburg, P.H.
2b861c71-febf-4da4-820d-0383e39a34eb
Dearing, J.A.
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Dyke, J.G.
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c
van der Leeuw, S.
e8b7d29a-1088-4b5b-acdc-948a21fe300b
Seitzinger, S.
1d7058d5-55ef-4b4e-b791-3689b85fb75a
Stefan, W.
bed80655-c03a-411b-8850-4769fc5d79d3
Syvitski, J.
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Verburg, P.H.
2b861c71-febf-4da4-820d-0383e39a34eb
Dearing, J.A.
dff37300-b8a6-4406-ad84-89aa01de03d7
Dyke, J.G.
e2cc1b09-ae44-4525-88ed-87ee08baad2c
van der Leeuw, S.
e8b7d29a-1088-4b5b-acdc-948a21fe300b
Seitzinger, S.
1d7058d5-55ef-4b4e-b791-3689b85fb75a
Stefan, W.
bed80655-c03a-411b-8850-4769fc5d79d3
Syvitski, J.
1315d38e-4cb7-4b5f-8b9d-8ad6fb936543

Verburg, P.H., Dearing, J.A., Dyke, J.G., van der Leeuw, S., Seitzinger, S., Stefan, W. and Syvitski, J. (2015) Methods and approaches to modelling the Anthropocene. Global Environmental Change, 1-14. (doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.08.007).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The ‘Anthropocene’ concept provides a conceptual framework that encapsulates the current global situation in which society has an ever-greater dominating influence on Earth System functioning. Simulation models used to understand earth system dynamics provide early warning, scenario analysis and evaluation of environmental management and policies. This paper aims to assess the extent to which current models represent the Anthropocene and suggest ways forward. Current models do not fully reflect the typical characteristics of the Anthropocene, such as societal influences and interactions with natural processes, feedbacks and system dynamics, tele-connections, tipping points, thresholds and regime shifts. Based on an analysis of current model representations of Anthropocene dynamics, we identify ways to enhance the role of modeling tools to better help us understand Anthropocene dynamics and address sustainability issues arising from them. To explore sustainable futures (‘safe and operating spaces’), social processes and anthropogenic drivers of biophysical processes must be incorporated, to allow for a spectrum of potential impacts and responses at different societal levels. In this context, model development can play a major role in reconciling the different epistemologies of the disciplines that need to collaborate to capture changes in the functioning of socio-ecological systems. Feedbacks between system functioning and underlying endogenous drivers should be represented, rather than assuming the drivers to be exogenous to the modelled system or stationary in time and space. While global scale assessments are important, the global scale dynamics need to be connected to local realities and vice versa. The diversity of stakeholders and potential questions requires a diversification of models, avoiding the convergence towards single models that are able to answer a wide range of questions, but without sufficient specificity. The novel concept of the Anthropocene can help to develop innovative model representations and model architectures that are better suited to assist in designing sustainable solutions targeted at the users of the models and model results

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Verburg et al GEC proofs.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 29 August 2015
Keywords: complex system models, simulation, scenarios, feedbacks, emergence, socio-ecological systems
Organisations: Electronics & Computer Science, Palaeoenvironment Laboratory (PLUS)

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 381643
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/381643
ISSN: 0959-3780
PURE UUID: c78f0b5f-2562-442c-93d5-13a78dab1b1f
ORCID for J.A. Dearing: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1466-9640
ORCID for J.G. Dyke: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6779-1682

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Oct 2015 11:48
Last modified: 04 Aug 2018 04:03

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Contributors

Author: P.H. Verburg
Author: J.A. Dearing ORCID iD
Author: J.G. Dyke ORCID iD
Author: S. van der Leeuw
Author: S. Seitzinger
Author: W. Stefan
Author: J. Syvitski

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