Modelling Complex Ecological Dynamics

pp 105-117


Cellular Automata in Ecological Modelling

  • Broder BrecklingAffiliated withGeneral and Theoretical Ecology, University of Bremen Email author 
  • , Guy Pe’er
  • , Yiannis G. Matsinos

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Cellular Automata (CA) are models that generate large-scale pattern from small-scale local processes. CA deal with spatially extended dynamics using a grid structure. Successive states of cells, which are arranged on a grid, are calculated according to a set of rules. State transitions depend on the state of the single cells and the state of the cells in the local neighbourhood. Cellular Automata are applied as a modelling approach in many scientific disciplines and are used in ecology as one of the most popular model types to study spatially extended dynamics. The chapter starts with a brief historical overview about CA. It describes how CA function, and for which types of problems they can be employed. We present simple theoretical examples, followed by a more detailed case study from plant competition and grassland community dynamics. As an outlook, we discuss major fields of application with a special focus on the ecological context. Finally, we provide a brief overview and recommendations on the use of some of the software specialized in the field of CA modelling.