While geographers and economists regularly work together on the development of land-use and land-cover change models, research on how differences in their modelling approaches affects the results is rare. Answering calls for more coordination between the two disciplines in order to build models that better represent the real world, we (two economists and a geographer) developed an economically grounded, spatially explicit, agent-based model to explore the effects of environmental policy on rural land use in New Zealand. This inter-disciplinary collaboration raised a number of differences in modelling approach. One key difference, and the focus of this paper, is the way in which processes that shape the behaviour of agents are integrated within the model. Using the model and a nationally representative survey, we compare the land-use effects of two disciplinary-aligned approaches to setting a farmer agent’s likelihood of land-use conversion. While we anticipated that the approaches would significantly affect model outcomes, at a catchment scale they produced similar trends and results. However, further analysis at a sub-catchment scale suggests the approach to setting the likelihood of land-use conversion does matter. While the results outlined here will not fully resolve the disciplinary differences, they do outline the need to account for heterogeneity in the predicted agent behaviours for both disciplines.
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