Experimental socioecology: Integrative science for anthropocene landscape dynamics

C Michael Barton, Isaac I T Ullah, Sean M. Bergin, Hessam Sarjoughian, Gary R. Mayer, Joan E. Bernabeu-Auban, Arjun Heimsath, Miguel F. Acevedo, Julien G. Riel-Salvatore, Ramon Arrowsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The emergence of coupled natural and human landscapes marked a transformative interval in the human past that set our species on the road to the urbanized, industrial world in which we live. This emergence enabled technologies and social institutions responsible for human-natural couplings in domains beyond rural, agricultural settings. The Mediterranean Landscape Dynamics Project (MedLand) is studying the interacting social and biophysical processes associated with these novel socioecological systems and their long-term consequences using a new form of 'experimental socioecology' made possible by recent advances in computation. We briefly describe the MedLand modeling laboratory, a hybrid simulation environment that couples models of small-holder farming and herding, landscape evolution, and vegetation change managed through an interaction model. We then review three examples of experimental socioecology carried out in this laboratory. These examples offer new insights for scale-dependent thresholds in agropastoral productivity, long-term sustainability of alternative land-use strategies, and identifying signatures of human and climate-driven landscape dynamics. We conclude with an overview of new directions for this interdisciplinary research on Anthropocene human-earth systems, including: modeling more diverse decision-making strategies for land-use, developing more sophisticated models of vegetation dynamics and fire ecology, and generating digital proxy data for more robust model validation against the empirical record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Mediterranean
  • archaeology
  • computational modeling
  • landscape
  • social-ecological systems
  • surface process modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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