PPS-20306 Systems Analysis and Modelling


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. P Reidsma
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. W van der Werf
dr. P Reidsma
dr. ir. M Heinen
dr. ir. KKE Descheemaeker
dr. ir. FJJA Bianchi
Sjaak Aben
Examiner(s)dr. P Reidsma
dr. ir. FJJA Bianchi
dr. ir. KKE Descheemaeker

Language of instruction:


Continuation courses:

The courses in the preparatory trajectories of PPS, FSE, CSA and HPC.


Note: This course can not be combined in an individual programme with FEM-31806 Models for Ecological Systems.

Systems approaches and quantitative simulation models are widely used in studies of ecological systems to increase understanding of ecosystems functioning and improving systems management. The application domain ranges from (sub-)individual level to (agro-) ecosystem level. Systems approaches represent a scientific concept in which the real world is divided into systems. These systems are captured into models, and studying model behaviour allows testing of hypotheses and increases knowledge.
This course builds on courses such as EZO-23306 (Biology) and CSA-10806 (Plant Sciences). It is intended for 2nd or 3rd year students, in particular for biologists, agro-ecologists, crop protectionists and soil scientists, but the way of thinking and the simulation techniques presented are applicable in many fields of science.
The course comprises four blocks:
1. systems dynamics with examples from population ecology;
2. model performance & model evaluation;
3. partial differential equations & modelling in space;
4. integrating case studies on population dynamics & nutrient dynamics in soil.
In the 1st block, concepts such as system, model, simulation, state, rate, feedback, time-coefficient, relational diagram, analysis of dimensions or units, and numerical integration methods are briefly refreshed, and presented along with examples from population ecology. The focus is on conceptual model formulation and quantitative model specification. Programming is done based on relational diagrams, using the software Visual Grind.
The 2nd block focuses on model evaluation. Statistical means and inverse modelling are used to assess how well a model describes experimental data. Parameter values are estimated, sensitivity analysis performed and model outcomes critically discussed. Programming is done using Matlab, which gives more possibilities than Visual Grind.
The 3rd block introduces partial differential equations for simulations in 1D and 2D. We start simulating heat flow, and mass flow and diffusion of nutrients in soils. Subsequently, several techniques for spatial modelling are studied. Examples include vegetation patterning, and dispersal by organisms, both at the individual and population level.
In the 4th block 'integrating case studies' are set-up such that the cycle of systems analysis and programming, i.e. data - systems knowledge - conceptual and mathematical model - implementation in a program - parameter estimation - model testing - exploration of management options, is practiced.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- apply the cycle of systems analysis and programming, and use related concepts to design and test dynamic models;
- analyse systems in terms of states, rates and driving variables, create relational diagrams and apply unit analysis;
- analyse spatial processes, and explain individual and population based modelling techniques to simulate dispersal;
- perform sensitivity analysis, model calibration and model performance evaluation;
- critically evaluate and reflect on simulation outcomes;
- apply systems approaches to ecology, crop science and soil science.


- lectures;
- tutorials in which exercises are solved using paper and pencil and by means of a computer;
- application of the subject matter in case studies;
- presentations of case study results in workshops;
- self-study activities, including reading, performing extra exercises, studying and practicing mathematical concepts, practicing Matlab coding; guidance and supervision will be provided to some extent.


- written exam with open questions (80%);
- two case study reports, including presentation (20%).


A reader will be available from the WUR-shop.
The reader contains all the reading material, and many exercises that enable the student to apply concepts and tools.

Compulsory for: BPWPlant SciencesBScB: Spec. B - Plant Production and Ecology2MO
Restricted Optional for: BBIBiologyBScD: Spec. D - Ecology2MO
MPSPlant SciencesMScA: Spec. A - Crop Science2MO
Compulsory for: WUCCPBSc Minor Concepts in Crop Production2MO
Restricted Optional for: WUSYBBSc Minor Systems Biology2MO