Key knowledge gaps to achieve global sustainability goals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Regional and global assessments periodically update what we know, and highlight what remains to be known, about the linkages between people and nature that both define and depend upon the state of the environment. To guide research that better informs policy and practice, we systematically synthesize knowledge gaps from recent assessments of four regions of the globe and three key themes by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. We assess their relevance to global sustainability goals and trace their evolution relative to those identified in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. We found that global sustainability goals cannot be achieved without improved knowledge on feedbacks between social and ecological systems, effectiveness of governance systems and the influence of institutions on the social distribution of ecosystem services. These top research priorities have persisted for the 14 years since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Our analysis also reveals limited understanding of the role of indigenous and local knowledge in sustaining nature’s benefits to people. Our findings contribute to a policy-relevant and solution-oriented agenda for global, long-term social-ecological research.


  • Matías E. Mastrángelo
  • Natalia Pérez-Harguindeguy
  • Lucas Enrico
  • Elena Bennett
  • Sandra Lavorel
  • Graeme S. Cumming
  • Dilini Abeygunawardane
  • Leonardo D. Amarilla
  • Benjamin Burkhard
  • Benis N. Egoh
  • Luke Frishkoff
  • Leonardo Galetto
  • Sibyl Huber
  • Daniel S. Karp
  • Alison Ke
  • Esteban Kowaljow
  • Angela Kronenburg-García
  • Bruno Locatelli
  • Berta Martín-López
  • Patrick Meyfroidt
  • Tuyeni H. Mwampamba
  • Jeanne Nel
  • Charles Nicholson
  • Elisa Oteros-Rozas
  • Sebataolo J. Rahlao
  • Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne
  • Taylor Ricketts
  • Uttam B. Shrestha
  • Carolina Torres
  • Klara J. Winkler
  • Kim Zoeller
External organisations
  • University of Mar del Plata
  • National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina
  • National University of Cordoba, Argentina
  • Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal
  • McGill University
  • University Grenoble Alpes
  • James Cook University
  • Université catholique de Louvain
  • Leibniz University of Hannover
  • Leibniz-Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e. V.
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • Flury & Giuliani agricultural and regional economic consulting
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of Montpellier
  • Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Peru
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg
  • Belgian National Fund For Scientific Research (FNRS)
  • National Autonomous University of Mexico
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • Wageningen University
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Vic
  • FRACTAL Collective
  • South African National Biodiversity Institute
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
  • University of Southern Queensland
  • Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences
  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1121
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number12
Early online date2019 Oct 28
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch