Global Systems, Local Impacts: A Spatially-Explicit Water Footprint and Virtual Trade Assessment of Brazilian Soy Production
Global trade and increasing food demand are important drivers of impacts in the water system across scales. This study coupled a spatially-explicit physical account of trade between Brazilian municipalities with a water footprint accounting model, in order to analyse water footprints of Brazilian soy produced for domestic and international consumption, and assess their relevance in the context of water scarcity and competing demands for water resources. The water footprints of Brazilian soy production were assessed for different levels of spatial-explicitness for comparison. The Swedish water footprints were analysed within this framework to illustrate the use of the methodology. As a result, temporal and geographical patterns of variability of water the footprints related to Brazilian soy production, attributed to different consumers in the global market, were identified. The study found the methodology to unveil important processes connected to economic and trade drivers, as well as to variability in climate and production yields. It was found that important regional variability was not considered or fully understood when accounting for water footprints as a national aggregate. Opportunities for improvement and further research were also discussed.
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