A framework for modeling payments for ecosystem services with agent-based models, Bayesian belief networks and opinion dynamics models


We present an integrated modeling framework for simulating land-use decision making under the influence of payments for ecosystem services. The model combines agent-based modeling (ABM) with Bayesian belief networks (BBNs) and opinion dynamics models (ODM). The model endows agents with the ability to make land-use decisions at the household and plot levels. The decision-making process is captured with the BBNs that were constructed and calibrated with both qualitative and quantitative information, i.e., knowledge gained from group discussions with stakeholders and empirical survey data. To represent interpersonal interactions within social networks, the decision process is further modulated by the opinion dynamics model. The goals of the model are to improve the ability of ABM to emulate land-use decision making and thus provide a better understanding of the potential impacts of payments for ecosystem services on land use and household livelihoods. Our approach provides three important innovations. First, decision making is represented in a causal directed graph. Second, the model provides a natural framework for combining knowledge from experts and stakeholders with quantitative data. Third, the modular architecture and the software implementation can be customized with modest efforts. The model is therefore a flexible, general platform that can be tailored to other studies by mounting the appropriate case-specific “brain” into the agents. The model was calibrated for the Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP) in Yunnan, China using data from participatory mapping, focus group interviews, and a survey of 509 farm households in 17 villages.

Environmental Modelling & Software