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Impact of globalization on the resilience and sustainability of natural resources


Material flows—such as food trade—allow human societies to rely on natural resources available both locally and in other regions of the planet. Thus, in a globalized world, multiple pools of the same resource are often harvested by multiple users through a network of interactions. It is not clear to what extent the interconnectedness, structure and modularity (that is, when subsystems of nodes exhibit stronger internal connectivity) of such a network may affect the resilience of the system. Here, we develop a theoretical framework to investigate the impact of globalization on the sustainable use of natural resources for food production. We find that the resilience of the system may either increase or decrease with the network’s interconnectedness and modularity, depending on the network structure. Global food trade exhibits a heterogeneous structure and its resilience is decreasing with the increase in connectivity of the past few decades.

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Fig. 1: Conceptual representation of the interconnected use of resources, such as those needed for food production.
Fig. 2: Equilibrium states, values of ηeff, and of the sustainable state probability as a function of network structure.
Fig. 3: Values of ηeff and of the sustainable state probability as a function of connectivity in homogeneous and heterogeneous Barabasi–Albert networks.
Fig. 4: Values of ηeff and of the sustainable state probability as a function of modularity in homogeneous and heterogeneous modular networks.
Fig. 5: Associations between resilience, connectivity, ηeff, modularity and time.

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Data availability

The datasets and code used during the current study are available in the OSF repository with the access code fkbdp (


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C.T. acknowledges financial support from Yunnan University project C176210103. S.S. acknowledges the University of Padova for SID 2017 and Stars 2018 grants.

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C.T. conceived the study, performed the calculations and wrote the paper. S.S. and P.D. conceived the study, supervised the work and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Paolo D’Odorico.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–13, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary References 1–15

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Tu, C., Suweis, S. & D’Odorico, P. Impact of globalization on the resilience and sustainability of natural resources. Nat Sustain 2, 283–289 (2019).

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