- This special section of Ecological Complexity includes four papers that represent the use of microsimulation to study environmental problems. In the opening paper, we focus on the problem of environmental microsimulation (EMS) evaluation. We claim that the backbone of EMS lies in the developer's ability to capture the mechanisms that govern real-world dynamics and propose to substitute the real world by its virtual copy to investigate this ability. Namely, we shall employ EMS at a certain “likelihood” resolution and consider the unlimited data set generated by the model as a surrogate of reality. One can then sample this virtual world and investigate whether the methods of data analysis, model formulation, parameter estimation and model calibration, employed for the analysis of the real world, are sufficient to reveal à priori known mechanisms. A failure will manifest the inability of the researcher to capture real-world effects.