Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 1555-1570.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1799-3

• Review Article •     Next Articles

Agent-based model of land system: Theory, application and modelling framework

DAI Erfu1,3(), MA Liang1,3, YANG Weishi2,4, WANG Yahui1,3, YIN Le2,3, TONG Miao1,3   

  1. 1. Lhasa Plateau Ecosystem Research Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2020-03-31 Accepted:2020-06-30 Online:2020-10-25 Published:2020-10-27
  • About author:Dai Erfu (1972–), PhD and Professor, specialized in comprehensive study of physical geography, simulation of LUCC, and climate change. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41571098);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41530749);National Key R&D Program of China, No(2017YFC1502903);National Key R&D Program of China, No(2018YFC1508805)


Land change science has become an interdisciplinary research direction for understanding human-natural coupling systems. As a process-oriented modelling approach, agent based model (ABM) plays an important role in revealing the driving forces of land change and understanding the process of land change. This paper starts from three aspects: The theory, application and modeling framework of ABM. First, we summarize the theoretical basis of ABM and introduce some related concepts. Then we expound the application and development of ABM in both urban land systems and agricultural land systems, and further introduce the case study of a model on Grain for Green Program in Hengduan Mountainous region, China. On the basis of combing the ABM modeling protocol, we propose the land system ABM modeling framework and process from the perspective of agents. In terms of urban land use, ABM research initially focused on the study of urban expansion based on landscape, then expanded to issues like urban residential separation, planning and zoning, ecological functions, etc. In terms of agricultural land use, ABM application presents more diverse and individualized features. Research topics include farmers’ behavior, farmers’ decision-making, planting systems, agricultural policy, etc. Compared to traditional models, ABM is more complex and difficult to generalize beyond specific context since it relies on local knowledge and data. However, due to its unique bottom-up model structure, ABM has an indispensable role in exploring the driving forces of land change and also the impact of human behavior on the environment.

Key words: land system, land use, land change science, land change model, agent-based model, modeling framework