External shocks, agent interactions, and endogenous feedbacks — Investigating system resilience with a stylized land use model

Yang Chen*, Martha M. Bakker, Arend Ligtenberg, Arnold K. Bregt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Dynamics of coupled Social-Ecological Systems (SES) result from the interplay of society and ecology. To assess SES resilience, we constructed an Agent-Based Model (ABM) of a land use system as a stereotypical example of SES and investigated how resilience of the represented system is affected by both external disturbances and internal dynamics. The model explicitly considered different aspects of resilience in a framework derived from literature, which includes “resilience to”, “resilience of”, “resilience at”, “resilience due to”, and “indicators of resilience”. External disturbances were implemented as shocks in crop yields. Internal dynamics comprised of two types of social interaction between agents (learning and cooperation), an ecological feedback of soil depletion and an economic feedback of agglomeration benefits. We systematically varied these mechanisms and measured indicators that reflected spatial, social, and economic resilience. Results showed that (1) internal mechanisms increased the ability of the system to recover from external shocks, (2) feedbacks resulted in different regimes of crop cultivation, each with a distinctive set of functions, and (3) resilience is not a generic system property, but strongly depends on what system function is considered. We recommend future studies to include internal dynamics, especially feedbacks, and to systematically assess them across different aspects of resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100765
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEcological complexity
Issue numberpart B
Early online date11 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Human-environment interactions
  • Nonlinearity
  • Path-dependency
  • Social-Ecological Systems
  • Tipping points


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