This paper addresses the problem of model complexity commonly arising in constructing and using process-based models with intricate interactions. Apart from complex process details the dynamic behavior of such systems is often limited to a discrete number of typical states. Thus, models reproducing the system's processes in all details are often too complex and over-parameterized. In order to reduce simulation times and to get a better impression of the important mechanisms, simplified formulations are desirable.

In this work a data adaptive model reduction scheme that automatically builds simple models from complex ones is proposed. The method can be applied to the transformation and reduction of systems of ordinary differential equations. It consists of a multistep approach using a low dimensional projection of the model data followed by a Genetic Programming/Genetic Algorithm hybrid to evolve new model systems. As the resulting models again consist of differential equations, their process-based interpretation in terms of new state variables becomes possible.

Transformations of two simple models with oscillatory dynamics, simulating a mathematical pendulum and predator-prey interactions respectively, serve as introductory examples of the method's application. The resulting equations of force indicate the predator-prey system's equivalence to a nonlinear oscillator. In contrast to the simple pendulum it contains driving and damping forces that produce a stable limit cycle.

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