Quantifying Earth system interactions for sustainable food production via expert elicitation

Journal Article

Abstract: Several safe boundaries of critical Earth system processes have already been crossed due to human perturbations; not accounting for their interactions may further narrow the safe operating space for humanity. Using expert knowledge elicitation, we explored interactions among seven variables representing Earth system processes relevant to food production, identifying many interactions little explored in Earth system literature. We found that green water and land system change affect other Earth system processes strongly, while land, freshwater and ocean components of biosphere integrity are the most impacted by other Earth system processes, most notably blue water and biogeochemical flows. We also mapped a complex network of mechanisms mediating these interactions and created a future research prioritization scheme based on interaction strengths and existing knowledge gaps. Our study improves the understanding of Earth system interactions, with sustainability implications including improved Earth system modelling and more explicit biophysical limits for future food production.

Read article

Citation: Chrysafi, A., V. Virkki, M. Jalava, V. Sandström, J. Piipponen, M. Porkka, S.J. Lade, K. La Mere, L. Wang-Erlandsson, L. Scherer, L.S. Andersen, E. Bennett, K.A. Brauman, G.S. Cooper, A. De Palma, P. Döll, A.S. Downing, T.C. DuBois, I. Fetzer, E.A. Fulton, D. Gerten, H. Jaafar, J. Jägermeyr, F. Jaramillo, M. Jung, H. Kahiluoto, L. Lassaletta, A.W. Mackay, D. Mason- D’Croz, M.M. Mekonnen, K.L. Nash, A.V. Pastor, N. Ramankutty, B. Ridoutt, S. Siebert, B.I. Simmons, A. Staal, Z. Sun, A. Tobian, A. Usubiaga- Liaño, R.J. van der Ent, A. van Soesbergen, P.H. Verburg, Y. Wada, S. Zipper and M. Kummu. 2022. Quantifying Earth system interactions for sustainable food production via expert elicitation. Nature Sustainability 5(10):830–842.