Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
208R: The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Wednesday, 24/Apr/2019:
11:15am - 12:45pm

Session Chair: Bill McConnell
Location: UniS-A -122
UniS Building, room A -122, basement, 72 seats
Session Topics:
What do people want from land?

Session Abstract

Over the past decade international research and policy circles have been increasingly recognizing the need for more integrated research, planning and management of water, energy and food systems to address the interconnected risks to water, energy, and food security. In response, the water-energy-food nexus concept highlights the interactions between these systems, and provides insight into the cross-sectoral implications of single-sector strategies. The need to manage resources in an integrated way has never been as urgent as today. Growing pressures on natural resources are making the interdependencies and tradeoffs between food, water and energy systems, and their interactions with land, climate change and livelihoods, increasingly evident. Understanding their interplay is essential to effectively addressing sustainability challenges. Furthermore, managing food, water and energy systems is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and requires a better understanding of the interactions between the Goals, both at and across different scales. Providing decision makers with the multifaceted knowledge needed to seize all opportunities to enhance synergies and minimize trade-offs is, therefore, a major objective for sustainability science. This session will feature theoretical and empirical work aimed at better understanding the role of land as the nexus of water, energy and food.

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Full talk
ID: 411 / 208R: 1
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: WEF Nexus, Mekong Basin, Process-based Modeling, Land use, Geospatial Technologies

Assessing the impacts of dams on the dynamic interactions among distant wetlands, land use, and rural communities in the Lower Mekong River Basin

Jiaguo Qi1,2, Shiqi Tao1, Linda Lin1, Charlie Navanugraha3

1Michigan State University, United States of America; 2Nanjing Agricultural University, China; 3Nakhon Phanom University, Thailand

Governments in Southeast Asia face the formidable challenge of meeting the rising economic aspirations of their growing populations in the context of climate change in a region whose landscapes are still mainly agricultural. The best solutions will be found in win-win scenarios such as those in which dams built to meet electricity demand are operated to also: support agricultural intensification; minimize negative environmental impacts; and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events. Identifying such scenarios requires a robust understanding of past land change trajectories, accounting for a range of physical and socioeconomic causative and enabling factors, within a framework that can reliably project the potential consequences of future policy choices. In this NASA funded project, we will focus specifically on the ability of the region’s network of existing and planned hydroelectric dams to simultaneously supply electricity and support the expansion of irrigated agriculture, while minimizing the disruption of hydroperiods crucial to the functioning and services of the region’s sensitive wetlands and mitigating extreme weather events. The overall goal of this project is to use geospatial technologies and process-based models to improve our understanding of the effects of hydroelectric dams on the delivery of ecosystem services crucial to the livelihoods of distant rural communities, with an emphasis on ecological and socio-economic tradeoffs of a range of dam operation scenarios in the Lower Mekong River Basin. This talk will present the WEF Nexus framework and examples how it can be used to address complex issues in the region.

Flash talk
ID: 757 / 208R: 2
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: Multi-scale, nexus, database, scenario

Multi-scale water-energy-food nexus

Makoto Taniguchi, Sanghyun Lee, Naoki Masuhara

Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan

Water, energy, and food are the most fundamental resources for human beings, and tease resources are interlinked each other. Therefore, we need integrated management and governance for the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus by increasing synergies and reducing trade-offs among the three resources under the limited land and climate change. In addition to these, three resources are connected in multi-spatial scale, such as local, national, regional and global, through food and energy trades, therefore we need multiscale analyses for sustainable resources management. Water footprint and energy footprints though food trade are one of the tool for understanding how each area is inter- and intra- connected on WEF nexus. Three databases of resources, interlinkage, and scenario are established under the Belmont Forum SUGI project “METABOLIC” in multi-spatial scale including Kyoto city, Kyoto prefecture, Kansai area with 7 prefecture, Japan, and Asia. A nexus model to analyze the change of the nexus structure has been made, and assessment of the changes in three resources, carbon emission, environmental and economic impacts are have been made.

Full talk
ID: 584 / 208R: 3
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: oil palm plantations, flooding, water scarcity, trade-offs, food crop cultivations

Oil palm plantations and changing water flow regimes – complex causalities and their impacts for food crop farmers in Sumatra, Indonesia

Jennifer Merten1,2, Christian Stiegler3, Nina Hennings5, Edwine Purnama4, Heiko Faust1

1Human Geography, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany; 2IRI THESys, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany; 3Bioclimatology, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany; 4Forest Inventory and Remote Sensing, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany; 5Soil Science of Temperate Ecosystems, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany

The expansion of oil palm plantations for biofuel production is considered as a main cause of ecosystem service loss in Jambi province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Villagers across different regions in Jambi province perceive an increase of water scarcity in the dry season as well as an increase of flooding in the rainy season since vast forest areas have been converted into cash crop plantations during the past two decades. Such changing water flow regimes present a particular management challenge for seasonal food crop cultivations. The underlying reasons for such changes yet remain underexplored. As land use change is generally accompanied by large-scale socio-economic and political transformation processes, we expect multiple socio-ecological processes to interact towards changing water flow regimes. Here, we present insights from recent interdisciplinary work within the EFForTs collaborative research centre, combining data and methods from social science, soil science, remote sensing, climatology, and forest ecology. We find that the combined effects of changing bio-geophysical soil properties in monoculture plantations, encroachment of wetlands, non-compliance with environmental legislation as well as construction of water infrastructure lead to decreasing water regulation services in the watersheds of Jambi province. Due to a high economic profitability of the plantation sector and low labor requirements in the management of oil palm plantations, many food crop farmers have shifted towards oil palm cultivation in recent years. Newly arising challenges of water management, such as sudden inundations of fields and the lack of irrigation water, contribute further to this development. In consequence, we argue that in Jambi province a strong trade-off between cash crop cultivation for biofuel production and aspirations for local food sovereignty exist. This trade-off is not solely caused by the higher profitability of tree crop plantation systems, but also by deep modifications of local ecohydrological processes.

Full talk
ID: 826 / 208R: 4
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: water, food, irrigation, climate change, statistical models, WEF nexus

Increasing the resilience of Indian agriculture to monsoon variability through optimized irrigation strategies

Balsher Singh Sidhu1, Milind Kandlikar1,2, Navin Ramankutty1,2

1Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; 2School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Primarily dependent on monsoon rains for water, agriculture across India is extremely vulnerable to both dry spells and short-duration rains which are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change. While predicting India’s crop yields as a function of precipitation has been a topic of extensive research, most previous studies with statistical models have used seasonal average rainfall values, largely ignoring intra-seasonal variability. Rainfed agriculture occupies 67% of the net sown area in India, making more than 500 million people engaged in this activity extremely vulnerable to such daily variations in weather. Using historical daily weather data at the district level, we have developed new metrics to account for intra-seasonal rainfall variability, such as variance of seasonal rainfall distribution, mean duration (in days) and frequency of continuous rainfall events in a season, mean duration and frequency of breaks (no-rain days) in between these rainfall events, among others. By including these novel metrics, we are developing an improved climate-crop statistical model that will further improve our ability to predict yields. We then plan to use this model to forecast the possible mitigation of crop yield losses, resulting from climate change, if supplemental irrigation is introduced in currently rainfed regions in India. As irrigation is a highly resource-intensive activity, both in terms of water use and energy, our analysis will be grounded in the practical constraints to irrigation expansion such as water scarcity and energy access in each major agricultural region of India. Our data-driven approach to this complex optimization problem at the food-energy-water nexus will help inform policy for developing sustainable irrigation facilities in India’s rainfed regions, with the aim of making crop yields more resilient to monsoon variability and climate change.

Full talk
ID: 750 / 208R: 5
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: landscape approach, hydrologic alteration, remote sensing, GIS

Ecosystem services in the water-energy-food nexus

Fritz Kleinschroth, Scott Sinclair, Paolo Burlando, Jaboury Ghazoul

ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Water, energy and food are equally essential for human wellbeing, but the distribution of water resources between differing demands and across borders is challenging. With growing populations and low degrees of industrialization, Sub-Saharan Africa particularly depends on surface water for development. Both irrigation agriculture and hydropower production require dams to store water resources during the dry season. This directly impacts ecosystem services depending on natural alterations of streamflow.

We analyzed the importance of ecosystem functioning within the water-energy-food nexus for the catchment of the Omo-Turkana basin. Lake Turkana is a large endorheic desert lake in Kenya; lake levels depend on the Omo River in Ethiopia that accounts for 90% of inflows. In recent years, large dam constructions for hydropower production and sugar cane irrigation have altered the hydrology of the Omo River. Based on time series of Landsat 8 and Sentinel 2 images, we analyzed the temporal evolution of surface water availability and associated vegetation cover along the lower Omo river and the shores of Lake Turkana before and after dam constructions.

We found that despite a temporary drop in lake levels, the main impact of dam construction was the reduction of seasonal flooding patterns. Hydropower production led to an equalization of both peak-flows and low-flows. This will result in a reduction in ecosystem service provision to local communities practicing flood-recession agriculture and livestock grazing of temporarily flooded grasslands. The capture of sediment behind dam walls will additionally alter floodplain environments through loss of nutrients.

The spatially explicit identification of ecosystem services combined with change prediction from hydrological modelling serves to suggest mitigation measures such as environmental flows. In the face of further planned dam constructions and climate change, we provide a decision analytic framework to provide least cost-scenarios for the full water-energy-food nexus that maintain key ecosystem services.

Full talk
ID: 582 / 208R: 6
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: GHG emissions, material flows, fruit and vegetable production

Land use implications and greenhouse gas emissions of current fruit and vegetable production

Marie-Theres Wandl

University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Austria

Adequate fruit and vegetable intake could greatly alleviate current problems of malnutrition. However, despite the key role of fruits and vegetables for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, the full land take and GHG emissions of global fruit and vegetable production has so far not been analyzed from a global, systemic point of view. Due to its comparatively small production area, fruits and vegetables are often summarized as one single category or even entirely neglected in global land system analyses. However, given the great diversity of different fruit and vegetable production systems, the broad range of their respective emissions, as well as their pivotal value for human nutrition, an improved empirical basis is required to understand challenges and constraints for enhancing their production. Existing LCA studies, while providing essential empirical data, are selective and partial, and hence do not allow for a comprehensive, systemic analysis of global GHG emissions and land take of fruit and vegetable production. This contribution describes research bridging global land use assessments and regionally scaled LCAs. We present a global material and GHG balance of fruit and vegetable production for the year 2010 differentiating major fruit and vegetable categories. The GHG assessment includes upstream emissions of inputs of farm management (e.g. tillage, irrigation, harvest, greenhouse heating) as well as direct and indirect emissions due to fertilizer use. The study is based on systematically linking data from various forms such as agricultural statistics, fertilizer statistics, and data on agricultural production planning, data from LCA studies with land use and climatic datasets. The results will not only allow differentiating between different fruit and vegetable commodities but also analyzes major regional and national patterns.

Flash talk
ID: 616 / 208R: 7
208R The water-energy-food nexus: progress and prospects
Keywords: food system, land-use (change), climate impacts, food security, dietary change

Climate impacts of feasible food/agriculture/land-use scenarios in a zero-deforestation world in 2050

Michaela Clarissa Theurl, Christian Lauk, Gerald Kalk, Andreas Mayer, Katrin Kaltenegger, Wilfried Winiwarter, Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl

Institute of Social Ecology, Austria

Increasing food demand is a major driver towards increased carbon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the transgression of natural limits. In order to obtain a complete picture of the climate impacts of the complex relationships between increasing demand for land and increased GHG emissions from food production, the emissions from land use change, intensification processes and carbon sequestration on potentially freed up land need to be considered. In the ‘BioBaM model’ we follow a diagnostic approach to characterize the multiple option space of a future food system and assume no deforestation by 2050. We systematically account for GHG emissions from upstream processes (e.g. mineral fertilizer production), agriculture (e.g. manure application), livestock husbandry, and land-use (change). Among 520 scenarios, spanning a wide range of different options for cropland expansion, livestock feeding, crop yields, and human diets, we find 320 ‘feasible’ scenarios with regard to limits of global land availability. GHG emissions of feasible scenarios range from 2.2 to 12.6 Gt CO2e yr-1. When natural succession is assumed to occur on land not required for agricultural production, and carbon uptake of land-use changes as well as emissions from grassland conversion are considered, the range widens to -10.2 to 12.8 Gt CO2e yr-1. We find that many scenarios of calorie-rich and ruminant meat based diets are infeasible in 2050. Highest GHG emissions are found for business-as-usual (BAU) and meat diets on predominantly grain-fed ruminants. Interestingly, BAU diets are feasible under organic, yet globally converging yield estimates with roughage based livestock systems at little cropland expansion (+11%) and with high GHG emissions (10.1 Gt CO2e yr-1). The diagnostic modelling approach of the BioBaM model allows to explore not only the complex relationships of the parameters related to diets, but also to investigate boundaries of the intensity of livestock production.