event 17 мая 2021

Project // UNraveling the knoT of the Water-energy-food nexus usIng ecosySTems services (UNTWIST)

The EU-funded UNTWIST research project is applying artificial intelligence to help manage water, energy and food through the lens of ecosystem services.

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© GIZ, Phtographer: Gaël Gellé

Project description

Simultaneously managing the interconnected resources of water, energy and food (WEF) has always been complicated. Challenges are significantly augmented by climate change, increasing water scarcity as well as more frequent and severe extreme weather events. More efficient and equitable management of the WEF nexus requires tools and frameworks developed with a clear knowledge of the interrelationships and feedback among the three components within their related ecosystems as well as the role of external drivers such as climate change.

The EU-funded UNTWIST project is applying artificial intelligence in models that quantify the interactions, with a focus on so-called ecosystem services, which are the benefits people believe they receive from an ecosystem, and which support, directly or indirectly, their survival and quality of life. The research project, which will last 24 months, will be mainly conducted at the Spanish BC3, the Basque Centre For Climate Change - Klima Aldaketa Ikergai, under the supervision of Professor Ferdinando Villa, while a secondment period, will be performed at GECOsistema (Italy), an environmental consulting based in Rimini. The projects is part of the programme H2020-EU.1.3.2. - Nurturing excellence by means of cross-border and cross-sector mobility.

Project duration

February 2021 - January 2023

Project information UNTWIST
Project information UNTWIST


UNTWIST aims at exploring new pathways to operationalize Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus concepts into practice. Despite the urgent need of adopting systemic thinking for the governance of water resource and interconnected sectors has been widely recognized and stressed by EU, several challenges for an effective mainstreaming of such frameworks into policy remain. These can be largely attributed to the lack of frameworks and tools able to effectively quantify interlinkages and feedbacks between nexus component and related ecosystems and to account for the effect of exogenous drivers of change (e.g. climate change). By combining ESs theories with complex system analysis, UNTWIST aims at contributing to fill these gaps demonstrating, through case studies applications, the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in developing integrated models supporting the quantification of critical interactions occurring in WEF nexus systems. Ecosystem Services (ESs) flows, being in the centre of the WEF relationships, will be used as common assessment endpoints to disentangle the nexus, thus contributing to reveal potential interdependencies between policy sectors and unlock opportunities for delivering integrated solutions addressing key challenges towards the achievement of interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNTWIST results will be disseminated and the main findings will be communicated with tailored actions to a wide audience, including the academic community, policy makers, industries and the general public.


The project description can be found and downloaded here.

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