This project aims to analyze the changing role of food production and consumption as a driver of N flows during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society, and the exploration of its future role in coming decades. Management of nitrogen flows is central to this transition, as it allowed for surges in biomass production due to land intensification. This has allowed to substantially reducing per-capita land requirements for food production, despite growing calorie and animal product intake in the course of industrialization. At the same time, the links between regional food consumption and food supply changed significantly. Changes in N management for food production as well as changes in diet are strongly influenced by day-to-day decision-making processes of farmers, consumers and other actors. Biophysical and socioeconomic framework conditions are the main drivers and constraints for the option space for each of these decisions that in their sum determine future developments. The project aims to develop a fully integrated socioecological model called NFC (Nitrogen and Food flow Changes) to study historical and possible future changes of nitrogen stocks and flows in the Upper Austrian Enns valley. NFC will be used to analyze trajectories of N flows in the time period of 1830-2030. NFC-model will endogenously represent
a) decisions of relevant actors,
b) spatially explicit changes in land use and land cover and
c) socioeconomic as well as ecological stocks and flows of nitrogen (with adequate spatial as well as temporal resolution).
The main goal of NFC is to further our understanding of the interplay of socioeconomic and natural drivers in influencing stocks and flows of N, one of the most important chemical elements due to its multiple roles as plant nutrient, as pollutant (NOx, NH4) and as a potent greenhouse gas (N2O). The project aims to explore the option space for future developments, which depends on both internal choices and on changes in the framework conditions, thereby supporting local, regional and even supra-regional decision-making. The principal outcome of the project will be a model-based integrated understanding of past states and trajectories and future option space, grounded in historical evidence. Moreover, the project will support Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) by providing a method for integrating concepts and data from social sciences, humanities and natural sciences into a coherent system and thereby facilitate integrated analysis of processes of society-nature interaction.