Dynamical Systems Modelling

This page focuses on dynamic systems modelling, a rigorous approach for studying how causal interactions within a social-ecological systems (SES) lead to dynamics at the system level. Dynamical systems modelling provides conceptual, mathematical and computational tools to deal with key SES concepts such as feedbacks, non-linearity and regime shifts. The content on this page discusses causal loop diagrams, loop analysis, qualitative analysis of differential equations (including bifurcation analysis and stability analysis) and numerical simulation of dynamical systems.

The Chapter summary video gives a brief introduction and summary of this group of methods, what SES problems/questions they are useful for, and key resources needed to conduct the methods. The methods video/s introduce specific methods, including their origin and broad purpose, what SES problems/questions the specific method is useful for, examples of the method in use and key resources needed. The Case Studies demonstrate the method in action in more detail, including an introduction to the context and issue, how the method was used, the outcomes of the process and the challenges of implementing the method. The labs/activities give an example of a teaching activity relating to this group of methods, including the objectives of the activity, resources needed, steps to follow and outcomes/evaluation options.

More details can be found in Chapter 26 of the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems.

Chapter summary: Dynamical Systems Modelling

This video introduces the concept of Dynamical Systems Modelling.

Lade, S. (2022)

Method Summaries

Causal Loop Diagrams

Sitas, N. (2022)

Case Studies

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Lab teaching/ activity

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Tips and Tricks

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Key Publications related to Dynamical Systems Modelling:
  • Ford, A. 2010. Modeling the Environment: An Introduction to System Dynamics Models of Environmental Systems (2nd ed). Washington: Island Press.
  • Roussel, M.  2019. Nonlinear Dynamics: A Hands-on Introductory Survey. San Rafael: Morgan & Claypool.
  • Scheffer, M., and Carpenter, S.R. 2003. ‘Catastrophic Regime Shifts in Ecosystems: Linking Theory to Observation.’ Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18(12): 648– 656.
  • Sterman, J. 2000. ‘Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.’ Boston: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
  • Strogatz, S. 1994. Nonlinear Dynamics and chaos. Philadelphia: Westview.