The effect of spatial heterogeneity and mobility on the performance of social-ecological systems

Irene Pérez, Marcus Janssen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We use an agent-based model to analyze the effects of spatial heterogeneity and agents' mobility on social-ecological outcomes. Our model is a stylized representation of a dynamic population of agents moving and harvesting a renewable resource. Cooperators (agents who harvest an amount close to the maximum sustainable yield) and selfish agents (those who harvest an amount greater than the sustainable yield) are simulated in the model. Three indicators of the outcomes of the system are analyzed: the number of settlements, the resource level, and the proportion of cooperators in the population. Our paper adds a more realistic approach to previous studies on the evolution of cooperation by considering a social-ecological system in which agents move in a landscape to harvest a renewable resource. Our results conclude that resource dynamics play an important role when studying levels of cooperation and resource use. Our simulations show that the agents' mobility significantly affects the outcomes of the system. This response is nonlinear and very sensible to the type of spatial distribution of the resource richness. In our simulations, better outcomes of long-term sustainability of the resource are obtained with moderate agent mobility and cooperation is enhanced in harsh environments with low resource level in which cooperative groups have natural boundaries fostered by agents' low mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Modelling
StatePublished - Jan 4 2015


  • Agent-based model
  • Cooperation
  • Heterogeneous landscape
  • Mobility
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Spatial heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling


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