The role of nature's contributions to people in sustaining international trade of agricultural products

Alexandra Marques, Aletta Bonn, Antonio J. Castro, Abhishek Chaudhary, María R. Felipe-Lucia, Thomas Kastner, Thomas Koellner, Kira Lancker, Laura Lopez Hoffman, Carsten Meyer, Stephan Pfister, Gabriela Rabeschini, Louise Willemen, Catharina J. E. Schulp

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Nature's contributions to people (NCP) are essential for the production and trade of agricultural, forestry and fishery commodities. Often, there is a spatial disconnect between consumers and the natural systems where the commodities are produced. Traded agricultural products are therefore dependent on nature and NCP in their region of origin. The dependencies of agricultural products on NCP are, however, insufficiently recognised by consumers and are rarely considered in global environmental governance and trade policies along value chains. Here, we synthesise studies highlighting dependencies of agricultural products on NCP in their origin locations to identify opportunities and challenges in quantifying their contribution in sustaining trade flows. We suggest three methodological steps for quantifying NCP dependencies in international agricultural trade: spatial mapping of NCP supply and demand, linking NCP to agricultural trade flows, and tracing trade flows. Each methodological step requires further development and harmonisation to enable a complete accounting of how international agricultural trade depends on NCP. Given the lack of knowledge and data on how NCP support agricultural trade, social and environmental trade-offs of natural resource management are currently hard to quantify. Quantifying the role of NCP dependencies of traded agricultural products can support their sustainable management, contribute to supply chain accountability and serve as input to sustainable natural resource governance and foster responsibility and equity in supply chains. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-421
Number of pages12
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number2
Early online date17 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • dependencies
  • ecosystem services
  • international agricultural trade
  • Nature's contributions to people (NCP)
  • supply chains
  • telecoupling


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