Quantifying Earth system interactions for sustainable food production via expert elicitation

Anna Chrysafi*, Vili Virkki, Mika Jalava, Vilma Sandström, Johannes Piipponen, Miina Porkka, Steven J. Lade, Kelsey La Mere, Lan Wang-Erlandsson, Laura Scherer, Lauren S. Andersen, Elena Bennett, Kate A. Brauman, Gregory S. Cooper, Adriana De Palma, Petra Doell, Andrea S. Downing, Timothy C. DuBois, Ingo Fetzer, Elizabeth A. FultonDieter Gerten, Hadi Jaafar, Jonas Jägermeyr, Fernando Jaramillo, Martin Jung, Helena Kahiluoto, Luis Lassaletta, Anson W. Mackay, Daniel Mason-D'Croz, Mesfin M. Mekonnen, Kirsty L. Nash, Amandine Pastor, Navin Ramankutty, Brad Ridoutt, Stefan Siebert, Benno Simmons, Arie Staal, Zhongxiao Sun, Arne Tobian, Arkaitz Usubiaga-Liano, Ruud J. van der Ent, Arnout van Soesbergen, Peter H. Verburg, Yoshihide Wada, Sam Zipper, Matti Kummu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Several safe boundaries of critical Earth system processes have already been crossed due to human perturbations; not accounting for their interactions may further narrow the safe operating space for humanity. Using expert knowledge elicitation, we explored interactions among seven variables representing Earth system processes relevant to food production, identifying many interactions little explored in Earth system literature. We found that green water and land system change affect other Earth system processes strongly, while land, freshwater and ocean components of biosphere integrity are the most impacted by other Earth system processes, most notably blue water and biogeochemical flows. We also mapped a complex network of mechanisms mediating these interactions and created a future research prioritization scheme based on interaction strengths and existing knowledge gaps. Our study improves the understanding of Earth system interactions, with sustainability implications including improved Earth system modelling and more explicit biophysical limits for future food production.

Determining the safe operating space for sustainable food production depends on the interactions of multiple processes within the Earth system. Expert knowledge provides critical insight into how these processes interact that improves Earth system modelling and our understanding of the limits of global food production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-842
Number of pages13
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number10
Early online date15 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • LAND


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying Earth system interactions for sustainable food production via expert elicitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this