Agent-Based Modeling for Integrating Human Behavior into the Food–Energy–Water Nexus
The nexus of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) has become a salient research topic, as well as a pressing societal and policy challenge. Computational modeling is a key tool in addressing these challenges, and FEWS modeling as a subfield is now established. However, social dimensions of FEWS nexus issues, such as individual or social learning, technology adoption decisions, and adaptive behaviors, remain relatively underdeveloped in FEWS modeling and research. Agent-based models (ABMs)
... received increasing usage recently in efforts to better represent and integrate human behavior into FEWS research. A systematic review identified 29 articles in which at least two food, energy, or water sectors were explicitly considered with an ABM and/or ABM-coupled modeling approach. Agent decision-making and behavior ranged from reactive to active, motivated by primarily economic objectives to multi-criteria in nature, and implemented with individual-based to highly aggregated entities. However, a significant proportion of models did not contain agent interactions, or did not base agent decision-making on existing behavioral theories. Model design choices imposed by data limitations, structural requirements for coupling with other simulation models, or spatial and/or temporal scales of application resulted in agent representations lacking explicit decision-making processes or social interactions. In contrast, several methodological innovations were also noted, which were catalyzed by the challenges associated with developing multi-scale, cross-sector models. Several avenues for future research with ABMs in FEWS research are suggested based on these findings. The reviewed ABM applications represent progress, yet many opportunities for more behaviorally rich agent-based modeling in the FEWS context remain.