The ecosystem service concept has emphasized the role of people within socio-ecological systems (SESs). In this paper, we review and discuss alternative ways of representing people, their behaviour and decision-making processes in SES models using an agent-based modelling (ABM) approach. We also explore how ABM can be empirically grounded using information from social survey. The capacity for ABM to be generalized beyond case studies represents a crucial next step in modelling SESs, although this comes with considerable intellectual challenges. We propose the notion of human functional types, as an analogy of plant functional types, to support the expansion (scaling) of ABM to larger areas. The expansion of scope also implies the need to represent institutional agents in SES models in order to account for alternative governance structures and policy feedbacks. Further development in the coupling of human-environment systems would contribute considerably to better application and use of the ecosystem service concept.
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