EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Assessing Water-Energy-Food nexus synergies and trade-offs:  an ecosystems services-based perspective 

Anna Sperotto1, Ferdinando Villa1, Stefano Balbi1, and Stefano Bagli2
Anna Sperotto et al.
  • 1BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change, Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country, Sede Building 1, 1st floor, Barrio Sarriena s/n - 48940 - Leioa, Bizkaia, Spain
  • 2GECOsistema srl – Geographic Environmental Consulting, Via Bagli 2 – I-47921 Rimini , Italy


Managing water, energy and food adopting a nexus approach is crucial to guarantee the sustainable and efficient use of resources, particularly in light of global changes. Ecosystem Services (ESs), namely the multiple benefits that ecosystems provide to human well-being, constitute a useful perspective to look at the critical interactions occurring between Water-Energy-Food (WEF). ESs have been rarely explicitly addressed in nexus assessment, however representing the bio-physical foundation of the WEF interactions, they can be used as common assessment endpoints permitting to better disentangle and manage cross-sectoral synergies and trade-offs. The UNTWIST project (MSCA-IF) proposes an innovative approach to look at the WEF nexus through the lens of ecosystem services theory gaining insights about potential interdependencies between sectorial policies and thus unlocking opportunities for delivering integrated solutions towards the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Starting from the nexus framing, a participative approach is adopted for engaging local stakeholders’ representative of different nexus sectors in identifying existing conflicts in water use and prioritizing ESs they value the most. Later, ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability), an Artificial Intelligence modeler based on the semantic web, is used to develop an integrated model to spatially-temporally represent most relevant ESs and flows exchanged through the WEF nexus building on available sectoral data and models. The proposed approach permits to map critical areas for multiple ESs provision to WEF and thus to identify where synergies and trade-offs between sectors are likely to arise. Based on this results, different scenarios describing multiple combinations of social, economic and climatic pathways are tested serving as the basis for the definition of a shared management strategy for long-term nexus sustainability. Preliminary insights derived from the application to two different case studies in Europe (i.e. Po river basin (Italy), Pas Miera Ason river basins (Spain)) will be presented to discuss the novelty and implications of the proposed approach.


How to cite: Sperotto, A., Villa, F., Balbi, S., and Bagli, S.: Assessing Water-Energy-Food nexus synergies and trade-offs:  an ecosystems services-based perspective , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-5169,, 2022.