Urbanization is one of three major drivers of landscape change that are the focus of SSI's sustainability science research portfolio. Urbanization is a highly complex set of forces involving multiple socio-economic, ecological and policy forces interacting with one another at multiple scales over multiple time frames. Existing scientific and policy orientations that focus on discrete and unconnected components of these systems can result in only partial solutions. The systems must be seen as integrated wholes, and this can only be done within large-scale computer simulations that allow the simultaneous interactions of multiple systems to be observed and studied. Such modeling tools open up new perspectives on systems, but also present new challenges in communicating the results to nonspecialists who will have to act on the new understanding. The project is developing new systems models in cooperation with a variety of stakeholders, who will also help understand how to best link the models and their insights to action.
The aim of this project is to construct, test, and use computer simulation models of coupled socio-ecological systems in urban regions. The project is focused on developing such models for the Portland and Bangor metropolitan regions using both existing computer planning models and developing using the Urban Sim modeling framework.
The development of the simulation models and the use of their outputs are coordinated with a variety of public and private sector stakeholders in the two regions. Stakeholder involvement helps set research priorities and assists in the assessment of the effectiveness of model outputs. Stakeholder involvement also provides the opportunity to investigate how improved understanding of complex systems can be effectively turned into actions leading to greater sustainability.
When completed the models under development in the project will provide the most complete tools available for investigating the behavior of coupled systems in urban areas of Maine. The outputs from these models will offer both public and private decision makers a view of positive and negative feedbacks within systems and of system thresholds that cannot be perceived without models at the scales proposed. Moreover, our engagement with stakeholders is intended to increase the relevancy and usefulness of these models and related outputs to stakeholders.