Integrated assessment of the food-water-land-ecosystems nexus in Europe: Implications for sustainability

Abiy S. Kebede, Robert J. Nicholls, Derek Clarke, Cristina Savin, Paula A. Harrison

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Climate and socio-economic change impacts are likely to cross traditional sectoral and regional boundaries with cascading indirect, and potentially far-reaching, repercussions. This is particularly important for the food-water-land-ecosystems (FWLE) nexus, which is fundamental for the achievement of at least six of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A holistic understanding of the FWLE nexus interactions and how and to what extent various exogenous drivers of change affect them is therefore central to cross-sectoral adaptation planning. Here, we present such an integrated assessment for Europe applying a regional Integrated Assessment Platform (IAP). The study explores a wide range of future climate and socio-economic scenarios using more than 900 model simulations. The results show that food production is likely to be the main driver of Europe's future landscape change dynamics (with or without climate change). Agriculture and land use allocation is often driven by complex cross-sectoral interactions with cascading effects on other sectors such as forestry, biodiversity, and water under the various scenarios. The modelling also highlighted that while sustaining current levels of food production at the European level could be achievable under most climate and socio-economic scenarios, there are significant regional differences with winners and losers. The analysis raises the question of whether current production and consumption policies are sustainable in the long-term. Such systematic integrated model-based analysis plays a crucial role in informing development of cross-sectoral policies that maximise synergies and minimise trade-offs across nexus sectors, regions, and scenarios. This is essential to achieve the SDGs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144461
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date6 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021


  • Climate and socio-economic change
  • Cross-sectoral impacts
  • Food-water-land-ecosystems nexus
  • Integrated assessment
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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