Ecosystems as Agent Societies, Landscapes as Multi-Societal Agent Systems

Ecosystems as Agent Societies, Landscapes as Multi-Societal Agent Systems

Antonio Carlos da Rocha Costa
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1756-6.ch002
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Landscape ecology concerns the analysis, modeling and management of landscapes and their component ecosystems, mostly in view of the effects of the anthropic actions that they may suffer. As such, landscape ecology is well amenable to be supported by agent-based computational tools. In this chapter, we introduce the concept of “multi-societal agent system”, a formal architectural model for distributed multi-agent systems, and we interpret it in ecological terms, to serve as an agent-based theoretical foundation for computer-aided landscape ecology. More specifically, we introduce the “ecosystems as agent societies” and “landscapes as multi-societal agent systems” approaches to ecosystems and landscapes, together with the core elements of the agent-based architectural models that support such approaches. The elements of those architectural models are then used to formally capture the main organizational and functional aspects of ecosystems and landscapes.
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The Basic Ecological Concepts

We characterize ecosystems, their components and related concepts, in terms of four dimensions1, taking as primitive the concept of individual (i.e., a particular individual organism).

  • The populational dimension, encompassing the set of individuals and types of individuals that constitute the ecosystem;

  • The organizational dimension, encompassing the ways individuals and sets of individuals relate to each other, in terms of their interactions;

  • The functional dimension, encompassing the functions that individuals and sets of individuals perform for each other, and the ways the interactions among organisms and sets of organisms coordinate with each other;

  • The geographical dimension, encompassing the geographical areas occupied by the ecosystems, and the ways the ecosystems constitute themselves on those areas.

We use the four dimensions to define a series of concepts that leads to the concepts of ecosystem, landscape, biome and biosphere. We also characterize the concepts of habitat and niche2.

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