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Title: Iowa Urban FEWS: Integrating Social and Biophysical Models for Exploration of Urban Food, Energy, and Water Systems
Most people in the world live in urban areas, and their high population densities, heavy reliance on external sources of food, energy, and water, and disproportionately large waste production result in severe and cumulative negative environmental effects. Integrated study of urban areas requires a system-of-systems analytical framework that includes modeling with social and biophysical data. We describe preliminary work toward an integrated urban food-energy-water systems (FEWS) analysis using co-simulation for assessment of current and future conditions, with an emphasis on local (urban and urban-adjacent) food production. We create a framework to enable simultaneous analyses of climate dynamics, changes in land cover, built forms, energy use, and environmental outcomes associated with a set of drivers of system change related to policy, crop management, technology, social interaction, and market forces affecting food production. The ultimate goal of our research program is to enhance understanding of the urban FEWS nexus so as to improve system function and management, increase resilience, and enhance sustainability. Our approach involves data-driven co-simulation to enable coupling of disparate food, energy and water simulation models across a range of spatial and temporal scales. When complete, these models will quantify energy use and water quality outcomes for current systems, and more » determine if undesirable environmental effects are decreased and local food supply is increased with different configurations of socioeconomic and biophysical factors in urban and urban-adjacent areas. The effort emphasizes use of open-source simulation models and expert knowledge to guide modeling for individual and combined systems in the urban FEWS nexus. « less
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Award ID(s):
1855902 1828942
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Big Data
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Essential for society to function, the production and consumption of food, energy, and water (FEW) are deeply intertwined, leading to calls for a nexus approach to understand and manage the complex tradeoffs and cascading effects. What research exists to date on this FEW nexus? How have scholars conceptualized these interactions at the urban scale? What are some promising approaches? Where are the research gaps? To answer these questions, we conducted a quantitative review of the academic literature on the FEW nexus (1399 publications) over more than four decades (1973–2017), followed by in-depth analysis of the most influential papers using an evaluation matrix that examined four components: 1) modeling approach; 2) scale; 3) nexus ‘trigger’; and 4) governance and policy. Scholars in the fields of environmental science predominated, while social science domains were under-represented. Most papers used quantitative rather than qualitative approaches, especially integrated assessment and systems dynamics modeling although spatial scale was generally recognized, explicit consideration of multi-scalar interactions was limited. Issues of institutional structure, governance, equity, resource access, and behavior were also underdeveloped. Bibliometric analysis of this literature revealed six distinct research communities, including a nascent urban FEW community. We replicated the analysis for this urban group, findingmore »it to be just emerging (80% of papers have been published since 2010) and dominated by scholars in industrial ecology. These scholars focus on quantifying FEW flows of the urban metabolism in isolation rather than as a nexus, largely ignoring the political and socio-economic factors shaping these flows. We propose the urban FEW metabolism as a boundary object to draw in diverse scholarly and practitioner communities. This will advance research on complex FEW systems in four key areas: (1) integration of heterogeneous models and approaches; (2) scalar linkages between urban consumption and trans-boundary resource flows; (3) how actors and institutions shape resource access, distribution and use; and (4) co-production of knowledge with stakeholders.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Community and stakeholder engagement is increasingly recognized as essential to science at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) to address complex issues surrounding food and energy production and water provision for society. Yet no comprehensive framework exists for supporting best practices in community and stakeholder engagement for FEWS. A review and meta-synthesis were undertaken of a broad range of existing models, frameworks, and toolkits for community and stakeholder engagement. A framework is proposed that comprises situational awareness of the FEWS place or problem, creation of a suitable culture for engagement, focus on power-sharing in the engagement process, co-ownership, co-generation of knowledge and outcomes, the technical process of integration, the monitoring processes of reflective and reflexive experiences, and formative evaluation. The framework is discussed as a scaffolding for supporting the development and application of best practices in community and stakeholder engagement in ways that are arguably essential for sound FEWS science and sustainable management.
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