Development And Evaluation of a System Dynamics Model for Investigating Agriculturally Driven Land Transformation in the North Central United States

Benjamin L. Turner, Melissa Wuellner, Timothy Nichols, Roger Gates, Luis O. Tedeschi, Barry H. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Land transformation from grassland to cropland in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) has become a growing concern among many stakeholders. A growing body of work has sought to determine the amount and rate of land use change with less emphasis on the systemic structures or feedback processes of land use decisions. This paper presents the development of a system dynamics simulation model to integrate ecological, economic, and social components influencing land use decisions, including cattle ranching, cropland production, rural communities, land quality, and public policies. Evaluation indicated that the model satisfactorily predicted historical land, agricultural commodity, and rural community data from the model structure. Reference modes for key variables, including the farmland area, were characterized by a bias correction of 0.999, root mean squared error of prediction of 0.053, R2 of 0.921, and concordance correlation coefficient of 0.0959. The model was robust under extreme and varying sensitivity tests, as well as adequately predicting land use under changing system context. The model's major contributions were the inclusion of decision-making feedbacks from economic and social signals with connectivity to land quality and elasticity values that drive land transformation. Limitations include lack of spatial input and output capabilities useful for visual interfacing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-228
Number of pages50
JournalNatural Resource Modeling
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016



  • Computer simulation
  • Land transformation
  • Model calibration
  • Model development
  • Model evaluation
  • Northern Great Plains
  • System dynamics
  • Vensim

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

Cite this