Relationships among water, food, energy, and ecosystems in the Mid-Latitude Region in the context of sustainable development goals

Sonam Wangyel Wang, Whijin Kim, Cholho Song, Eunbeen Park, Hyun Woo Jo, Jiwon Kim, Woo Kyun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The progress of the global effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is increasingly impeded by the degradation of critical and fundamental resources such as water, food, energy, and ecosystem services. The Mid-Latitude Region (MLR) of the world is at the forefront of confronting these challenges due to rapid population growth, increasing poverty, and drought and climate change that are exacerbating the transition of semi-arid landscapes to deserts. While scientific studies are accumulating around the water–food–energy–ecosystem nexus, efforts to simulate how the linkages among the elements relate to SDGs are lacking in the MLR. We attempt to review and analyze existing literature about how water–food–energy–ecosystems operate, interact, and relate to SDGs. We identified 37 relationships and ascertained the nature of their interactions, of which 12 are significant and have direct bearings on the SDGs. The findings show that most studies and approaches that address the nexus challenges in the MLR exist in silos. In addition, there is a lack of a scientific approach to quantify how the nexus operates and relates to SDGs. For instance, past studies show that deforestation for agriculture could increase food security. However, there is a weak focus on trade-offs (e.g., loss of ecosystem services due to deforestation). Deforestation is also shown to have a negative relationship with the quantity and quality of water (SDG6) as well as the functionality of an ecosystem (SDG15). Furthermore, the review has indicated a negative relationship between irrigated agriculture and water and a positive relationship with food. This directly implies that water and food issues must be addressed in tandem and not separately if we are to achieve SDGs 2 and 6. The review supports the idea that water, food, energy, and ecosystem services cannot be managed separately, and that future approaches must focus on integrating and optimizing the connections among them to ensure sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Mar

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the OJEong Resilience Institute, Korea University, the Korea National Research Foundation, and the Key Research Institute’s 3rd Pole Project for supporting this review. There is no additional external support other than this.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).


  • Mid-Latitude Region
  • relationship
  • scoping review
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • water–food–energy–ecosystem nexus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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