PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (1): 173-184.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2023.01.014

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Analysis of the water-energy-food nexus system for sustainable development and its research framework

HAO Lingang1,2(), YU Jingjie1,2,*(), WANG Ping1,2, HAN Chunhui3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. College of Water Resources, North China University of Water Resources and Electric Power, Zhengzhou 450046, China
  • Received:2022-06-15 Revised:2022-09-17 Online:2023-01-28 Published:2023-03-28
  • Contact: YU Jingjie;
  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20040302);National Natural Science Foundation of China(52109017)


The securities of water, energy, and food are three sustainable development goals (SDGs) and have close interactions with other SDGs. Based on the recent studies of the theory, methodology, and application of the water-energy-food nexus (WEF nexus) system, this study analyzed the WEF nexus system in terms of its definition and composition, internal interaction processes, inputs and outputs, and influencing factors. In the process of analysis, the characteristics of the spatial and temporal scales of the research object were taken into account, and the inputs and outputs of the WEF nexus system were clarified from the perspective of the material, energy, and information flows. This study also illustrates the positive and negative impacts of climate change on the water, energy, and food subsystems and their interactions, as well as the impacts of human activities on the WEF nexus system. Furthermore, a research framework of the WEF nexus system covering research themes-disciplinary theories-technical methods-practical applications was proposed, according to the interactions of the WEF nexus system and other SDGs. The introduced framework illustrates three research topics: 1) Linkages within the WEF nexus system and the overall state. 2) The drivers of system change. 3) The influences of the system on socioeconomic development, ecological and environmental protection, and so on. At last, this study highlights the urgent need for interdisciplinary analysis of WEF nexus systems due to the insufficient research and application of nexus relationships and the diversity of spatial and temporal boundaries. The research perspectives based on comprehensive analysis indicators and calculation methods of nexus relationships are presented, and the necessity and ways of coupled application of multi-scale research results is introduced. This study provides a new insight into the research on the basic theory and application of the WEF nexus system, as well as some guidance on the analytical ideas and methods of global and regional sustainable development goals.

Key words: sustainable development, water-energy-food nexus, system analysis, research framework, interdisciplinary