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UNraveling the knoT of the Water-energy-food nexus usIng ecosySTems services

Project description

A novel tool helps manage water, energy and food through the lens of ecosystem services

Simultaneously managing the interconnected resources of water, energy and food (WEF) has always been complicated. Challenges are significantly augmented by climate change, increasing water scarcity as well as more frequent and severe extreme weather events. More efficient and equitable management of the WEF nexus requires tools and frameworks developed with a clear knowledge of the interrelationships and feedback among the three components within their related ecosystems as well as the role of external drivers such as climate change. The EU-funded UNTWIST project is applying artificial intelligence in models that quantify the interactions, with a focus on so-called ecosystem services, which are the benefits people believe they receive from an ecosystem, and which support, directly or indirectly, their survival and quality of life.


UNTWIST aims at exploring new pathways to operationalize Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus concepts into practice. Despite the urgent need of adopting systemic thinking for the governance of water resource and interconnected sectors has been widely recognized and stressed by EU, several challenges for an effective mainstreaming of such frameworks into policy remain. These can be largely attributed to the lack of frameworks and tools able to effectively quantify interlinkages and feedbacks between nexus component and related ecosystems and to account for the effect of exogenous drivers of change (e.g. climate change). By combining ESs theories with complex system analysis, UNTWIST aims at contributing to fill these gaps demonstrating, through case studies applications, the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in developing integrated models supporting the quantification of critical interactions occurring in WEF nexus systems. Ecosystem Services (ESs) flows, being in the centre of the WEF relationships, will be used as common assessment endpoints to disentangle the nexus, thus contributing to reveal potential interdependencies between policy sectors and unlock opportunities for delivering integrated solutions addressing key challenges towards the achievement of interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The research project, which will last 24 months, will be mainly conducted at the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) in Bilbao (Spain), under the supervision of Professor Ferdinando Villa, while a secondment period, will be performed at GECOsistema (Italy), an environmental consulting based in Rimini. UNTWIST results will be disseminated and the main findings will be communicated with tailored actions to a wide audience, including the academic community, policy makers, industries and the general public.


Net EU contribution
€ 160 932,48
Edificio 1 planta 1 parque cientifico de upv/ehu barrio sarriena
48940 Leioa

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Noreste País Vasco Bizkaia
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00