Shopping trips, home improvement projects, and digital gadgets: Aside from the public health disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a wide variety of human vulnerabilities, including the emergency shortages of food and other essentials related to supply chain disruptions.
Scientists from FEWSION, a government-funded initiative in the United States, are focused on how these supply chains connect and sustain communities. So focused that they mapped every district in the U.S. to better understand how people are interdependent for water, food, energy, and other resources. An interactive tool called FEW-View helps people visualize how and where machines (or lumber or cattle or water) are flowing into or out of a region.
Many people never really thought about it before the pandemic or natural disaster like the recent heat waves and forest fires in North America cut access to what they need. But at FEWSION? a collaboration between Northern Arizona University and academic partners? They analyze the supply chain data in the hope of making cities and rural communities more shockproof in the coming climate future.
And there is a lot of data. This type of mapping has only existed once, and according to director Ben Ruddell, it was only for the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. So it was Michael Gomez’s job to use Penn State University’s supercomputers to sort information about food and gain insights into better resilience.
The FEWSION team has looked at natural biodiversity as a model for resilience and adaptation, as supply chains are similar to food webs in natural ecosystems. Their findings, published in Nature last week, suggest a 15 percent increase in the resilience of the food supply chain to mild to moderate shocks when the “web” of the supply chain is initially more diverse.
The researchers say the diversity of a city’s supply chain explains more than 90 percent of the intensity, duration, and frequency of food shock in U.S. cities. If the model worked for food, it would provide planners and policymakers with a reliable metric when assessing their supply chain vulnerabilities. Ruddell says it doesn’t just work for food, but regardless of the cause of the shock, a discovery he thinks is as profound as it is practical.
? We now have a simple and effective mathematical basis for action to strengthen a city’s supply chain resilience ,? says Ruddell. “The years to come will show how far this applies to other types of supply chains. Does this apply to households? Nations? Electricity? Telecommunications??
The results are particularly important against the background of the pandemic, but also interruptions in the supply chain due to natural disasters or global developments such as the shutdown of the Suez Canal in March. In this case, the effects of a meter-long shutdown of a single shipping route are still felt in the global economy.
“That is why ecological theory is so important. When we have different supply chains that mimic ecosystems, they can more easily adapt to unpredictable shocks, ”says Ruddell. “We can use this nature-inspired design to create more resilient supply chains. ?
Map of the expected shock intensities of an annual shock in the food supply chain with an annual probability of occurrence of 1%. The shock intensities are shown as a fraction of the average annual inflows. The annual probability of occurrence of 1 percent is also known as the 100-year food shock.
In Search of Biodiversity to Build More Resilient Supply Chains, the post first appeared in the Sustainability Times.
Source: Sustainability Times