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Lock-in mechanisms in global food systems: implications for sustainability and food security

Dornelles, A. (2021) Lock-in mechanisms in global food systems: implications for sustainability and food security. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00109492


As global food networks increase in size, complexity and interconnectivity, a systemic understanding of the emergent drivers and coevolving trajectories that can either enable or hinder the transformation of food systems towards more sustainable trajectories is sorely needed. In this thesis, an interdisciplinary approach building from the literature of resilience, sustainability, and systemic risks was developed to investigate and quantify intertwined dynamics in food systems that can reinforce undesirable outcomes in social�ecological systems (i.e., lock-in mechanisms). In the four manuscripts collected, we aimed to, respectively: 1) investigate diverse interpretations of ‘undesirable resilience’ and explore potential commonalities from an interdisciplinary understanding, 2) operationalize a comprehensive understanding between the undesirable properties of resilience and their impacts on transformations towards sustainability throughout four case studies, 3) quantify multiple human and environmental dimensions of food systems transformations archetypes to identify potential leverage points for sustainability transformations, and 4) empirically investigate dynamic and shared patterns of interannual fluctuations of dietary energy supply and food supply and their implications for systemic food risks. Some key results include how the term ‘lock-in’ was found to be a bridging concept for an integrative understanding of social-ecological system dynamics (as found in manuscript 1) and can help to reveal mechanisms to enable systemic transformation towards sustainable development (elaborated in manuscript 2). The viii transformation of global food systems tended to be locked-in trajectories of expanding agricultural output, whilst accompanied by increasing malnutrition and environmental pressures (i.e., transformation archetypes) – which were found independently of improvements to productivity (quantified in manuscript 3). These social-environmental impacts are likely to co-occur across countries (i.e., interlocking mechanisms), with important implications for systemic risks. Dietary energy supply and food supply showed synchronised dynamics across nations, which were partially explained by geographic distance (assessed in manuscript 4). Collectively, lock-in mechanisms in global food systems reveal important conceptual, methodological, and empirical advancements to explore sustainable pathways for development and transformation.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Oliver, T. and Nunes, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Biological Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences
ID Code:109492


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