The intersection of food security and biodiversity conservation: a review

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Food security and biodiversity conservation are key challenges of the twenty-first century. While traditionally these two challenges were addressed separately, recently, papers have begun to specifically address the nexus of food security and biodiversity conservation. We conducted a structured literature review of 91 papers addressing this nexus. To ascertain how a given paper approached the topic, we assessed to what extent it covered 68 potentially relevant issues. The resulting dataset was analyzed using cluster analysis. Two main branches of literature, containing a total of six clusters of papers, were identified. The “biophysical-technical” branch (clusters: “sustainable intensification” and “production focus”) was dominated by the natural sciences, focused strongly on the production aspect of food security, and sought general solutions. In contrast, the “social-political” branch (clusters: “social-ecological development”; “empowerment for food security”; “agroecology and food sovereignty”; and “social-ecological systems”) often drew on the social sciences and emphasized social relations and governance, alongside broader considerations of sustainability and human well-being. While the biophysical-technical branch was often global in focus, much of the social-political branch focused on specific localities. Two clusters of papers, one from each branch, stood out as being particularly broad in scope—namely the clusters on “sustainable intensification” and “agroecology and food sovereignty.” Despite major differences in their conceptual basis, we argue that exchange between these two research clusters could be particularly helpful in generating insights on the food–biodiversity nexus that are both generally applicable and sufficiently nuanced to capture key system-specific variables.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1303–1313
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2017

    Research areas

  • Sustainability Science - Agroecology , Biodiversity conservation, Cluster analysis, Food sovereignty, Food security, Sustainable intensification