Domain-specific languages for ecological modelling

Niels Holst*, G.F. Belete

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The primary concern of an ecological modeller is to construct a model that is mathematically correct and that correctly represents the essence of a natural system. When models are published as software, it is moreover in the hope of capturing an audience who will use and appreciate the model. For that purpose, the model software must be provided with an intuitive, flexible and expressive user interface. A graphical user interface (GUI) is the commonly accepted norm but in this review we suggest, that a domain-specific language (DSL) in many cases would provide as good an interface as a GUI, or even better. We identified only 13 DSLs that have been used in ecological modelling, revealing a general ignorance of DSLs in the ecological modelling community. Moreover, most of these DSLs were not formulated for the ecological modelling domain but for the broader, generic modelling domain. We discuss how DSLs could possibly fill out a vacant niche in the dominant paradigm for ecological modelling, which is modular, object-oriented and often component-based. We conclude that ecological modelling would benefit from a wider appreciation of DSL methodology. Especially, there is a scope for new DSLs operating in the rich concepts of ecology, rather than in the bland concepts of modelling generics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-38
Number of pages13
JournalEcological informatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • Component-based
  • Framework
  • Object-oriented
  • Software design


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