Resilience in the Global Food System

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Feb 09, 2017
David Seekell, Joel Carr, Jampel Dell'Angelo, Paolo D'Odorico, Marianela Fader, Jessica Gephart, Matti Kummu, Nicholas Magliocca, Miina Porkka, Michael Puma, Zak Ratajczak, Maria Cristina Rulli, Samir Suweis, and Alessandro Tavoni



Ensuring food security requires food production and distribution systems function throughout disruptions. Understanding the factors that contribute to the global food system's ability to respond and adapt to such disruptions (i.e. resilience) is critical for understanding the long-term sustainability of human populations. Variable impacts of production shocks on food supply between countries indicate a need for national-scale resilience indicators that can provide global comparisons. However, methods for tracking changes in resilience have had limited application to food systems. We developed an indicator-based analysis of food systems resilience for the years 1992–2011. Our approach is based on three dimensions of resilience: socio-economic access to food in terms of income of the poorest quintile relative to food prices, biophysical capacity to intensify or extensify food production, and the magnitude and diversity of current domestic food production. The socio-economic indicator has a large variability, but with low values concentrated in Africa and Asia. The biophysical capacity indicator is highest in Africa and Eastern Europe, in part because of a high potential for extensification of cropland and for yield gap closure in cultivated areas. However, the biophysical capacity indicator has declined globally in recent years. The production diversity indicator has increased slightly, with a relatively even geographic distribution. Few countries had exclusively high or low values for all indicators. Collectively, these results are the basis for global comparisons of resilience between countries, and provide necessary context for developing generalizations about resilience in the global food system.

Read full article in Environmental Research Letters.

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