Climate, Land Use, Water-Food-Energy-Biodiversity Nexus Modeling


Being aware of the interconnectedness and mutual causality of the climate system and land surface processes, and the overall relevance for the Water-Food-Energy Nexus, the Climate Hub Unit will consider in high detail the relevance of land use dynamics and changes in land use and water management on various scales, i.e., ranging from continental to the river basin scale.

1.On a continental scale, the impact of land use changes on the climate system requires a direct consideration in the land use scheme of regional climate models. Since it is known that Land Use and Land Cover Changes (LULCC) can have significant impacts on the evolution of climate, it is important to incorporate these changes into climate models for improving simulations of historical and future climate change. On the one hand, while IPCCs state-of-the-art Global Climate Models (GCMs) account for LULCC through dynamic vegetation components that interact with the atmosphere, their spatial resolution generally coarser than 100km between two grid points is insufficient to represent the details of surface heterogeneities for regional applications. On the other hand, although Regional Climate Models (RCMs) do provide suitably high spatial resolutions (~12 km) to represent the main features at regional scales, LULCC are paradoxically not accounted for e.g., in the widely used regional climate projections from the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX). LULCC also impacts climate via changes in the surface albedo, roughness and evapotranspiration (Perugini et al., 2017). These so-called ‘biophysical effects’ can impact climate as much as GHG forcing locally, but they are comparatively much less studied and understood. Although these biophysical impacts resulting from LULCC likely affect the local climate to a similar extent than the global GHG forcing (Noblet-Ducoudr矇 et al., 2012), they are comparatively much less studied and understood. For this reason, the Land Use and Climate Across Scales (LUCAS) project has investigated the biophysical effects of land cover changes on the regional climate through an idealized experiment comparing worlds where Europe would be fully covered by either forest or grass (Davin et al. 2020; Asselin et al. 2022). While such approaches can show the substantial contribution of LULCC on climate response and its uncertainties, the Climate Hub will advance existing knowledge by implementing realistic change rates of LULCC into RCMs to obtain high-quality climate information that will better serve governments, stakeholders and the public in the development of innovating adaptation strategies to climate change. Consequently, the activities of the Climate Hub with regard to land use on continental scales will focus on the following aspects:

  • Implement realistic land use changes based on preindustrial and future projected LULC maps into regional climate models.
  • Identify the driving mechanisms through which LULCC affect climate and assess their impact on climate variability and extreme events.

2. On the river basin scale, an accurate assessment of LULCC is crucial for the management of natural resources, particularly soil and water. It is however particularly complex to attribute the role of changes in climate versus socioeconomic forcing in on land use changes and land use management. It requires high-resolution, spatially explicit land use change models, such as e.g., iCLUE (Verweij et al., 2018; Huber Garcia et al., 2018), which use a combination of i) empirically quantified relations between a land use class and its drivers, and ii) dynamic modelling of the competition between different land use classes to simulate land use change. Appropriate models relate the driving factors to each land use by means of a statistical relationship providing the suitability of a location for a specific land use. iCLUE, e.g., supports multiple statistical methods to describe a relationship between predictive variables and a land use class, e.g., stepwise regression as a statistical method.

Such models form the baseline to assess land use changes for future scenarios, converting socioeconomic drivers and climate change into land use change at the river basin scale. Changes in land use, and in particular in scenario dependent implications on land use management, can have severe implications on water demand and water supply, thus forming a major building block for the understanding of the causal connection between land use change and the functionality of the nexus. Fig. Xx illustrates the implications of various scenarios on land use change and water use change in the Ebro River basin, Spain, under conditions of scenario dependent socioeconomic and climatic changes (Sustainable vs. Myopic):

Furthermore, the Climate Hub Unit focusing on the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems-Land Use-Climate Nexus modeling will also employ Nexus Informatics that will identify and quantify interlinkages among sectors and resource use. Achieving the SDGs, along with the long-term sustainability of these systems requires holistic and systems solutions that integrate across scales and disciplines.

This Unit will combine knowledge of this complex and interdisciplinary system of systems with relevant technological, policy, and human behavioral modeling and datasets.

  • System Dynamics Modelling is used to map detailed and extensive sector-specific data from major databases and scenario models (e.g., E3ME-FTT, OSeMOSYS, MAGNET, SWIM) for national level analysis of interlinkages and for the identification of Nexus hotspots, where resource interdependencies create vulnerabilities and threaten resource security.
  • Trade-off analysis is conducted to identify best possible options. Economic sectors such as agriculture, industry, services, and households are modeled, and calculations include GDP, government, governance, finance and investments taking into account state of the art economic modeling. Environmental sectors include land, soil, water, energy, consumption and production patterns, waste and biodiversity, while GHG emissions are calculated from all sectors.

In collaboration with the Energy and Climate Unit, the effect of these emissions on Climate Change is done by translating them to an associated temperature increase. The incorporation of a wide range of Social Sectors in the analysis including population, education, health, infrastructure, employment, transportation, income, etc. is a great strength.

The flexible and comprehensive System Dynamics platform that is produced can be adjusted to go in great detail in a sector of interest and possibly remain at a more aggregate level in other sectors, if needed.

Proposed solutions and technological / financial pathways are tested holistically and their effects are examined across a variety of economic, social and environmental sectors, incorporating a unique System of Systems modeling approach that integrates socio-economic science, engineering and policy and that incorporates informed action, new technologies, planning, policy, behavioral adaptation, and financial pathways.


Ian Bateman

Professor, University of Exeter

Martin Drews

Senior Scientist, Technical University of Denmark

Phoebe Koundouri

Professor, Athens University of Economics and Business & Technical University of Denmark

Chrysi Laspidou

Professor, University of Thessaly

Ralf Ludwig

Professor, LMU Munich


Giannis Adamos

Dr., Research Associate at University of Thessaly

Ebun Akinsete

Dr. Senior Researcher, ICRE8, SDU at ATHENA RC, ReSEES AUEB

Angelos Alamanos

Dr., Policy Analyst in Water Services, National Water Forum of Ireland - Postdoctorate at Dundalk Institute of Technology

Konstantinos Dellis

Dr., Post-Doctoral Researcher, "Athena" Research and Innovation Center

Sotiris Georganas

Associate Professor, City University London

Alexandra Ioannou

Associate Researcher at University of Thessaly

Dimitrios Kofinas

Dr., PhD Civil Engineer at University of Thessaly

Nikos Mellios

Dr., Post Doctoral Researcher at University of Thessaly

Alexandra Spyropoulou

Dr., Stavros Niarchos Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow/Research Associate | Civil Engineering | University of Thessaly

Artemis Stratopoulou

Dr., Athens University of Economics and Business

Alina Velias

Postdoctoral Researcher, Athens University of Economics and Business

Konstantinos Ziliaskopoulos

PhD candidate, University of Thessaly

          Supporting Projects

          Water Futures: Designing the Next Generation of Urban Drinking Water Systems

          Funded by the European Research Council

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, Athens University of Economics and Business

          SEAwise: Shaping ecosystem based fisheries management

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, “Athena” Research and Innovation Center

          ARSINOE: Climate Resilient Regions Through Systemic Solutions and Innovations

          PI, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou, University of Thessaly

          PI, Prof. Koundouri, Athens University of Economics and Business

          PI, Dr. Ebun Akinsete, “Athena” Research and Innovation Center

          PI, Martin Drews, Technical University of Denmark

          PI, Prof. Ralf Ludwig, LMU Munich

          BIONEXT: The Biodiversity Nexus: Transformative Change For Sustainability

          PI, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou, “Athena” Research and Innovation Center

          NEXOGENESIS: Streamlining water related policies

          PI, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou, University of Thessaly

          DESIRA: Digitisation Economic and Social Impacts in Rural Areas

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, “Athena” Research and Innovation Center


          funded by European Commission EU-ERANETMED II

          PI, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou, University of Thessaly

          NEXUSNET: Network On Water-Energy-Food Nexus For A Low-Carbon Economy In Europe And Beyond

          Action Chair, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou

          Member of the Management Committee for Greece, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri

          RECONNECT: Regional cooperation for the transnational ecosystem sustainable development

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, International Centre for Research on the Environment and the Economy (ICRE8)


          PI, Prof. Chrysi Laspidou, University of Thessaly

          THESEUS: Innovative coastal technologies for safer European coasts in a changing climate

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, Athens University of Economics and Business

          SESAME: Southern European Seas: Assessing and modelling ecosystem changes

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, Athens University of Economics and Business

          Cross-KIC Water Scarcity Activities

          PI, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, “Athena” Research and Innovation Center

          TheNEXUS Clusteris a group of independent research initiatives who team up for increased and more impacting communication and dissemination of the Nexus. The Nexus includes sectors like water, energy, food, land and climate, as well as important societal challenges like public health and rural-urban development.

          Steering Committee member: Prof. Chrysi Laspidou

          Steering Committee member:Prof. Phoebe Koundouri


          MIT Climate Interactive

          Climate Interactive creates and shares tools that drive effective and equitable climate action.

          Balmorel is a partial equilibrium model for analysing the electricity and combined heat and powersectors in an international perspective. It is highly versatileand may be applied for long range planning as well as shorter time operational analysis.Balmorel is implemented as a mainlylinear programming optimisation problem.

          The model is developed in a model language, and the source code is readilyavailable under open source conditions, thus providing complete documentation of the functionalities. Moreover, the usermay modify the modelaccording to specific requirements, making the model suited for any purpose within the focus parts of the energy system.

          The Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDG) model is a policy simulation tool designed to help policy makers and other stakeholders make sense of the complex web of interconnections between the SDGs.

          Unlike databases and indexes that provide a measure of where a country stands, iSDG focuses on the dynamic interactions within the SDG system to reveal the best paths and progression towards achieving the SDGs.

          TheFood, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-Use, and Energy (FABLE) Consortiumis convened as part of theFood and Land-Use Coalition(FOLU).It aims to understand how countries can transition towards sustainable land-use and food systems. In particular, we ask how countries can collectively meet associatedSustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and the objectives of theParis Agreement. FABLE comprises20 country teams, which develop data and modeling infrastructure to promote ambitious, integrated strategies towards sustainable land-use and food systems.

          FABLE is led by theInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis(IIASA) and theUN Sustainable Development Solutions Network(SDSN), working closely withEAT, thePotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research(PIK), and many other institutions.

          Learn more here.