The environmental consequences of delivering food security

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Inst of Biological and Environmental Sci


Key research questions: Under a range of future food security scenarios (including sustainable intensification, redistribution and trade, changing diets and reduced waste), what will be the impacts on indicator ecosystem services such as carbon storage, climate regulation and soil, water and air quality?
Desired outcomes: We wish to provide a range of biogeochemical impact assessments for various scenarios proposed to address global food security, so that sustainability criteria can be applied to the different possible strategies, and synergies and trade-offs between food security and ecosystem services can be identified. This will be accomplished as follows: The project will use a data-driven, systems modelling approach, based on a global food systems model (FEEDME; Dawson et al., 2013) and a global biogeochemical model (ECOSSE; Smith et al., 2010a; Gottschalk et al., 2012), to examine a range of possible scenarios to deliver food security (Smith et al., 2013a) including a) production side measures to improve food security, through i) sustainable intensification (closing the yield gap; improving livestock (Foley et al. 2011; Herrero et al., 2013), ii) redistribution and trade (Peters et al., 2012), and b) demand side measures, through i) changing diets (Macdiarmid et al., 2012; Smith et al. 2013a), iii) reduced waste (Smith et al., 2013a). The feedback on each of these scenarios on land use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be examined, and the feedback to food supply will be examined globally, and for different world regions (Godfray et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2010b). The project will exploit high resolution, spatially resolved datasets of crop yield and land cover (Foley et al. 2011), and livestock distribution and emissions (Herrero et al. 2013), which provide unprecedented detail, and this project will bring those data together for the first time. The global FEEDME model will be informed by FAO statistics and nutritional demand, to derive country level dietary demands for food products which will be matched to supply from the high resolution datasets, constrained by country level trade statistics. Impacts of potential future food systems will be examined using globally applicable, biogeochemical models to estimate impact on indicator ecosystem services such as carbon storage, climate regulation and soil, water and air quality (Bennetzen et al., 2012; Gottschalk et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2013b). We anticipate that this work will yield high impact papers and information critical to policy makers and other stakeholders. References available on request.
Plans for capacity building: The PhD student will be trained, in addition to the full programme offered through the graduate schools at the Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee, in ecosystem and biogeochemical modelling, food systems modelling and bioinformatics techniques used in data-driven, systems level research.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1654839 Studentship BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Amy Molotoks
Description One of the main outcomes of this award was to identify global hotspots. These areas are where future cropland expansion is projected to occur yet coincides with areas of high biodiversity and carbon storage. A range of models and socio-economic scenarios were also examined to identify commonalities between projections, which were termed the 'hottest hotspots'. These included Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Brazil which are suggested as priorities for stronger action to prevent large scale biodiversity and carbon storage loss. Furthermore, cropland expansion projections were used to determine the impact on national food security by using the global model FEEDME as well as population change data and climate change scenarios.

Another main outcome was the case study conducted in rural Madagascar. As one of the 'hottest hotspots', Madagascar was identified as having a high risk of conflict between food security and biodiversity conservation. The case study in Ranomafana examined local perspectives on conservation initiatives and found a strong link between food insecurity and biodiversity exploitation activities, with management suggestions revolving around incorporation of local communities in conservation initiatives.

Research capacity building was also achieved as a result of this work, with training undertaken in a range of areas including spatial analysis using geographic information systems, coding and script writing using R, paper writing skills resulting from three publications as well as social science methodologies including conducting interviews and focus groups.
Exploitation Route The global analyses undertaken highlight areas in need of further research. Hence the results may be used to direct more in depth studies examining potential conflict between biodiversity conservation and food security on a sub-national scale. Furthermore, the results of the case study in rural Madagascar have been shared with the National Park management authorities in order to direct future decision making.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment