Food

Climate Change

Biodiversity

Challenge

The global population increased from 2.5 to 7.8 billion from 1950 to 2020 and is projected to grow by another 2.2 billion by 2050. Economic wealth has also been growing. These are driving rapid increase in global food demand with hundreds of millions of people still suffering from hunger or malnourishment. Every indicator of human activity, including natural resource extraction and waste production, has undergone a sharp increase since 1950. While growth and development of our society has improved many aspects of human wellbeing, it has also strained global ecosystems, exerting huge pressures on biodiversity, while contributing substantially to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Consequently, Earth’s capacity to sustain life and support human wellbeing is threatened, raising concerns for food security, climate mitigation and safeguarding biodiversity. For example, the intensification of crop, livestock, and aquaculture production has transformed vast areas of natural habitats, while emitting waste that contributes to further climate change and other types of pollution. The more than 3-fold increase in global marine fisheries catch since the 1950s has led to the overexploitation of fish stocks and increased greenhouse gas emissions from seafood production. Human-induced pressures continue to push us closer to the limits of, and in some cases, beyond the ‘safe operating space’ of living within Earth’s capacity.

A key challenge the world is facing is to feed the future human population in a just and equitable way, while also achieving biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation goals. Overcoming this challenge requires exploring pathways that will lead us to ‘desirable’ futures in which such food-climatebiodiversity (FCB) goals will be met simultaneously. The scale and urgency of FCB challenges have been featured in recent high-level international and national assessments and reports, including those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Natural Resources Canada and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine of USA.

To achieve ‘desirable’ FCB futures, transformative solutions for sustainable food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and biodiversity conservation are urgently needed. These FCB ‘solutions’, if not designed and implemented well with consideration of the complex and diverse social and ecological contexts, could have negative consequences. For instance, conservation measures that do not consider stakeholder needs can have negative impacts on their food security, particularly for small-scale and Indigenous operations which often have a stronger sense of stewardship towards nature. Further, climate adaptation measures such as the construction of seawalls as a defense against sea-level rise may destroy natural coastal habitats that are important for supporting biodiversity, fisheries and culture of communities.

Partnership Goals & Objectives

The goal of the proposed 6-year Partnership, “Solving the Sustainability Challenges at the Food-Climate-Biodiversity Nexus” (Solving-FCB), is to support and facilitate the development of viable FCB solutions that explicitly consider their complex social and ecological contexts. The Solving-FCB Partnership brings together world-leading scholars and practitioners from academic institutes, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, and government agencies to undertake transdisciplinary research that examines policies and human actions at the intersection of achieving food security, climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation goals.

Specifically, the Partnership will examine the following higher-level questions:

  • What are the consequences of farming and aquaculture development on biodiversity and climate?
  • How do climate adaptation for fisheries and agriculture affect food production, biodiversity and societal wellbeing?
  • How can biodiversity and other living resources be managed to support food security and climate adaptation?
  • How can ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches and the development of ‘desirable futures’ scenarios, coupled with the appropriate decision support framework, be useful to inform local actions and for taking account of local actions in global agreements, to solve FCB challenges?

To answer these questions, the Partnership has three overarching objectives:

  1. Develop pluralistic visions2 of ‘desirable’ futures of FCB;
  2. Identify priorities and examine consequences of actions to build nexusinformed pathways for transforming and transitioning to ‘desirable’ FCB futures;
  3. Develop a systematic procedure and toolkit to co-identify solution options with stakeholders, rights-holders, and knowledge-holders to address the interactions between FCB and other sustainability challenges.

The Partnership is grounded on five case studies that focus on FCB challenges under a range of societal and environmental contexts. Through case studies in Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ghana/Nigeria and the Netherlands, the Partnership aims to elucidate specific policy-related questions under different decision-making contexts. Although independent of each other, the case studies align in their common exploration of visions and pathways to achieve FCB goals. Outcomes from the case studies will be integrated to address the partnership’s overarching goals and objectives. We will use both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse relationships and feedback in FCB systems, including integrated modelling and scenarios development to evaluate temporal and spatial dynamics and impacts in response to FCB-related actions, and co-production of knowledge with stakeholders and rights-holders to make the research relevant to real world decision-making.

Canada

China

Ghana & Nigeria

Costa Rica

The Netherlands

Theoretical Approach

The proposed Partnership is transdisciplinary, and uses a nexus approach to identify transition and transformation pathways towards ‘desirable’ futures where FCB challenges can be met simultaneously (Figure 1). The nexus approach is ‘multicentric’, explicitly recognises the inherent interconnectedness and interdependence of the systems being studied, and is applied to resolve complex resource and development issues situated at the intersection of natural and human systems. The nexus approach highlights the interactions between human (e.g., economic, social) and natural (e.g., hydrologic, atmospheric, biological) systems. The Partnership takes a systems perspective to uncover co-benefits, examine trade-offs and other unexpected consequences in solving FCB challenges, and achieve sustainable development outcomes across coupled human-natural systems (Figure 1).

Figure. 1. Conceptual diagram illustrating the food-biodiversity-climate nexus on ocean and land: (A) Example of synergistic effects and feedbacks; (B) Examples of trade-offs and antagonistic feedbacks.

Conceptual diagram illustrating the food-biodiversity-climate nexus on ocean and land: (A) Example of synergistic effects and feedbacks; (B) Examples of trade-offs and antagonistic feedbacks.3 A transdisciplinary approach is essential to find solutions for FCB challenges, by bringing together researchers, knowledge-holders, stakeholders and rights-holders to co-develop knowledge and policy options. Specifically, this Partnership facilitates collaboration between scholars from anthropology, economics, resource management, public policy, climate sciences, ecology, fisheries, and agriculture and nutritional science to work closely with practitioners with established links to policymakers, to answer questions that can support FCB actions. Our approach involves understanding the linkages between human and natural systems, exploring the consequences of scenario drivers and FCB policies affecting the systems, and incorporating the information into policy discussion. FCB challenges are complex and interconnected, and solving them requires bridging diverse sources of experience and knowledge. Policy-makers are facing ever more complex decisions and are requiring different kinds of information to navigate this environment, leading to widespread calls for a more integrated, contextualized and goal-seeking evaluation of different policies, geared for multi-scale decisions and action. This necessitates a shift in demand for knowledge beyond the assessment of current trends (what is happening), towards the need to explore and identify the transformations required to achieve more sustainable futures (how to change).

Project Structure

The Partnership is structured into five case studies, each of which will apply a mixture of the Partnership’s cross-cutting methodology. We will synthesize the case studies to identify and examine the linkages, opportunities, and barriers for achieving FCB goals across spatial and temporal scales and social and ecological contexts.

Methodological approach: Four methods will be utilized in the five case studies, each supported by a methodological project team in the Partnership.

Scenarios Development

Scenarios development (led by Peterson & Pereira) is widely used to support decision making, especially in highly uncertain situations. Scenario planning facilitates the development of policy-relevant set of alternative futures. Scenarios can vary both in their assumptions about how the world will unfold, and what policies or strategies different actors will implement in that world. The use of environmental scenario methods has been rapidly growing, but the field is fragmented and could benefit from improvement in research methods. Knowledge gaps are particularly apparent in two priority areas: i) effective cross-scale scenario methods that include diverse dynamic feedbacks between people and the living world, and ii) pathways towards sustainable ‘desirable’ futures for FCB that explicitly account for the pluralistic views and values of stake- and knowledge- holders. For each case study, members of the Partnership and knowledge-holders will co-create plausible futures and narratives of food production systems that represent a diversity of values and worldviews. Scenarios of ‘desirable’ futures will be developed using the IPBES ‘Nature Futures’ framework and through a series of participatory workshops using a mixture of qualitative methods and quantitative modelling approaches to bridge knowledge systems. In each case study, we will organize at least three workshops to bring together diverse rights-holders, stakeholders and knowledge-holders to develop future visions and perspectives, explore transformative scenario narratives and pathways, and discuss the implications for relevant policy-related questions under the developed scenarios.

Integrated modelling

Integrated modelling (led by Alkemade & Cheung) has been developed to examine questions related to FCB from local to global scales and uses both qualitative and quantitative frameworks. Integrated modelling is a systems analysis approach that combines disciplinary-based (e.g., economics, human behaviour, biology, climate) models, data, and assessment methods to form a modelling tool capable of exploring system-scale problems. Integrated modelling can be quantitative or qualitative. While integrated modelling has provided influential contributions to environmental policies (e.g., climate policies, most existing models focus only on limited dimensions of FCB (e.g., on sustainable use of wild species, while not including bio-cultural aspects) and do not sufficiently represent4 FCB interactions across spatial and temporal scales. Applications of integrated modelling to inform FCB challenges are also largely limited to developed regions because of the lack of financial and knowledge capacity in many developing regions. Solving-FCB will develop linkages between quantitative and qualitative approaches to accommodate the diversity of social and ecological contexts and apply such models in our case studies to explore alternative transformative pathways developed from the scenario exercises. The Partnership includes members who are leaders in integrated modelling initiatives addressing FCB-related topics at international and local levels . The Partnership will develop linkages between existing integrated models across systems (e.g., land and ocean), sectors (e.g., fisheries and agriculture), disciplines (economic and ecological), and scales (spatial and temporal) for each case study. Since most of our case studies are in regions where the capacity for developing and applying integrated modelling to address FCB-related challenges is limited, the Partnership will support the development of such modelling capacity in these regions, serving as a foundation for replication beyond our case studies.

Participatory research methods

Participatory research methods (led by Teh & Teh) are inclusive and systematic approaches to produce solution-oriented knowledge with stakeholders. A participatory process is one in which stakeholders, often guided by researchers, engage in a collaborative process in order to stimulate innovation, encourage social learning, integrate different forms of knowledge, expectations, and perceptions, and to mitigate conflicts. Participatory processes are increasingly implemented in social-ecological research on topics such as climate adaptation, in which stakeholder engagement processes such as scenario-based analysis are used to increase integration of knowledge into science and decision-making. These processes and tools are suitable for our research given the Partnership’s need to integrate the multi-dimensional knowledge that makes up the FCB nexus. Participatory methods will be applied in all components of the project to facilitate the co-development, translation and transmission of knowledge and solutions generated from our research to diverse stakeholders and knowledge-holders, including resource users and managers, and national/international policy makers. For each case study, participatory workshops and focus group discussions will be conducted to provide spaces for researchers and knowledge users to actively engage in co-creating and sharing knowledge. This process allows different perspectives and knowledge systems to be blended, and ensures that the research is solution-oriented and aligned with users’ needs.

Decision support framework

Decision support framework (led by Martin) help translate existing and new knowledge to support policy discussions related to solving FCB challenges. Recently, an approach called Priority Threat Management (PTM) has been developed to support decision to manage multiple environmental challenges in situations where information is limited, with consideration of the likely benefits, cobenefits, costs and trade-offs of possible management strategies. The PTM framework has been applied successfully to solve complex biodiversity conservation problems. The framework brings stakeholders, rights- and knowledge holders together to define and prioritise strategies for managing challenges of social-ecological systems, making it a suitable framework for this Partnership.

For each case study, the Partnership will apply the PTM framework to synthesize the knowledge generated from scenarios and integrated modelling and expert knowledge through structured expert elicitation workshops to identify the scopes of the FCB challenges, potential solution options and their cost‐effectiveness, and possible ways to communicate and integrate policy recommendations. We will use the PTM framework to:

  1. Help identify the types of information that policy-makers and stakeholders need, globally and regionally, to apply a nexus approach to solve FCB challenges;
  2. Interactively explore the effectiveness of the scenarios and associated visualization developed by the Partnership to support FCB policy discussions;
  3. Facilitate the general use of the outputs from the Partnership to develop solutions for FCB challenges in different decision-making contexts.

Through applying the PTM framework, we will develop communication platforms preferred by the stakeholders, rights-holders and policy-makers to help them examine the portfolios of solutions for FCB challenges

Scientific Team

Co-Directors

William Cheung

University of British Columbia

Rashid Sumaila

University of British Columbia

Co-investigators

Christian Birkel

University of Costa Rica

Garry D. Peterson

Stockholm University

Ingo Wehrtmann

University of Costa Rica

Laura M. Pereira

University of the Witwatersrand

Lauria Chan

University of Ottawa

Ling Cao

Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Louise S. Teh

University of British Columbia

Lydia C. Teh

University of British Columbia

Robe Alkemade

Wageningen University

Solen Le Clec’h

Wageningen University

Tara G. Martin

University of British Columbia

Terre Satterfield

University of British Columbia

Collaborators

Ahmed S. KhanAfrican Development Bank Group
Berchie AsieduUniversity of Energy and Natural Resources
Colette C. WabnitzStanford University
Denis W. AhetoUniversity of Cape Coast
Essam YassinMohammed Worldfish Center
Joachim ClaudetCentre national de la recherche scientifique
Kristin M. KleisnerEnvironmental Defense Fund
Monica OrozcoCenter for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism
Shehu L. AkintolaLagos State University
Sophie Le ClueADM Capital Foundation
Temitope O. SogbanmuUniversity of Lagos
Wisdom AkpaluGhana Institute of Management and Public Administration

Partners

ADM Capital Foundation

Hong Kong

Environmental Defense Fund

Boston, MA

Federal Ministry of Environment

Nigeria

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Sidney, BC

Fraser Basin Council

Vancouver, BC

Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration

Ghana

Lagos State Ministry of Environment & Water Resources

Nigeria

Lagos State University

Nigeria

MarViva Foundation

Costa Rica

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

The Netherlands

Ocean & Climate Platform

France

Shanghai Jiao Tong University

China

Stockholm University

Sweden

Tla’amin
Nation

Powell River, BC

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, BC

University of Cape Coast

Ghana

University of Costa Rica

Costa Rica

University of Lagos

Nigeria

University of Energy and Natural Resources

Ghana

University of Ottawa

Ottawa, On

University of the Witwatersrand

South Africa

Wageningen University and Research Centre

The Netherlands

Worldfish Center

Malaysia