Simulating the forest fuel market as a socio‐ecological system with spatial agent‐based methods: A case study in Carinthia, Austria

Johannes Scholz*, Florian Breitwieser, Peter Mandl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper presents an agent-based modeling and simulation approach to model the forest fuel supply chain for heating purposes (i.e., heating plants). The paper focuses on the simulation of the processes of timber harvesting by forest enterprises and the competition of heating plants for the limited resource of wood chips. In particular, the work identifies different stakeholders having an adaptive behavior—with respect to the overall market conditions and timber prices. The agent-based model developed here—called SimFoMa—uses three types of agents—forest enterprises, heating plants, and traders. The agents are interacting in an environment that has rich information on the forests and road network. The SimFoMa model is applied to a test area, the province of Carinthia, Austria. We defined six different simulation scenarios that cover different market situations—from increasing timber prices, volatile market conditions, or decreasing market conditions—and evaluated the harvest patterns, transport distances and the forest itself. The paper utilizes the agent-based modeling methodology to model the agent's adaptive behavior of the forest fuel supply chain and to model the competition of heating plants for forest fuels. To evaluate this phenomena we mainly analyze transport distances of the simulation runs. For the test area of Carinthia, the experiments show that the behavior of small forest owners influences the supply of forest fuels. Timber prices not meeting the expectations of small forest owners might not motivate them to produce timber and forest fuels. On the long run the overall forest fuel supply does not meet the demand in the test area Carinthia—hence it relies on biomass imports. Furthermore, we witnessed increasing transport distances from harvest site to heating plant. Recommendations for Resource Managers The results of the spatial Agent-based simulation of the forest fuel market with agents competing for the limited resource forest biomass show that transport distances for forest fuels can vary and may increase over time. Hence, the planning of the forest fuels supply and the respective transport distances is crucial to reduce the carbon footprint of the timber for heating purposes. As small forest owners produce timber on a more irregular basis (based on the price in the market), the motivation of small forest owners is crucial for the steady supply of biomass for heating purposes—for the case of Carinthia. In the long run it is not possible to fulfill the demand of biomass for heating purposes for Carinthia, without imports of timber. Again, crucial is the motivation of small forest owners to produce timber.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12291
Number of pages54
JournalNatural Resource Modeling
Issue number1
Early online date6 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • agent-based simulation
  • forest fuel
  • spatial simulation
  • spatio-temporal modeling
  • wood chips

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Modelling and Simulation

Fields of Expertise

  • Information, Communication & Computing


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulating the forest fuel market as a socio‐ecological system with spatial agent‐based methods: A case study in Carinthia, Austria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this