Project

Coupled Innovative Training Network

Goal: The Doctoral programme COUPLED is a European wide PhD programme that unites young researchers, senior researchers and non-academic organizations and companies on topics of land-use change, and the globalization of this. Our work covers qualitative and quantitative approaches and span the globe. A major aim is to understand what drives land-use changes in order to transition towards greater sustainability in this domain. With this project we want to keep you informed about what is currently happening within our group.

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Project log

Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
The multiple environmentalities framework has been used to disentangle the diverse rationalities of governance that underpin contemporary environmental governance programmes. Often missing from such analyses is a networked and scalar dimension that can provide a basis for understanding the structural dimensions of environmental governance and the contingent expressions of multiple environmentalities. Here, we draw on insights from politics of scale to present a framework for analysing the multiple environmentalities of environmental governance in protected areas. We focus on the construction of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park in Lao PDR, drawing on document analysis and semi-structured interviews with multi-level actor groups. We show how conservation interventions rationalised on neoliberal environmentalities produce novel discursive and material mechanisms for extending sovereign environmentalities, for instance via contractual obligations and via project designs that necessitate social fragmentation. In addition, by presenting case studies of multiple environmentalities in three village sites, we demonstrate how interactions generate contestations and lead to new entanglements for residents, resulting in geographically and socially uneven manifestations of conservation programmes. We urge further attention to how competing scale-making projects interact to shape the practices of environmental governance and the fragmented nature through which environmental subjects are formed.
Gabi Sonderegger
added a research item
Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) are prominent governance instruments that define and verify sustainable agricultural land use at farm and supply chain levels. However, agricultural production can prompt spillover dynamics with implications for sustainability that go beyond these scales, e.g., through runoff of chemical inputs or long-distance migrant worker flows. Scientific evidence on the governance of spillovers through VSS is, however, limited. This study investigates the extent to which VSS regulate a set of 21 environmental and socio-economic spillovers of agricultural land use. To this end, we assessed the spillover coverage in 100 sustainability standards. We find that VSS have a clear tendency to cover environmental spillovers more extensively than socio-economic spillovers. Further, we show how spillover coverage differs across varying types of standard-setting organizations and VSS verification mechanisms. Finally, we discuss the role and limitations that VSS can have in addressing the revealed gaps.
Gabi Sonderegger
added a research item
Agriculture plays a central role in achieving most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture has been proposed as a promising concept for safeguarding global food security, while simultaneously protecting the environment and promoting good quality of life. However, SI often leads to context-specific sustainability trade-offs. Operationalising SI thus needs to be supported by transparent sustainability assessments. In this article, we propose a general systematic approach to developing context-specific frameworks for integrated sustainability assessment of agricultural intensity change. Firstly, we specify a comprehensive system representation for analysing how changes in agricultural intensity lead to a multitude of sustainability outcomes affecting different societal groups across geographical scales. We then introduce a procedure for identifying the attributes that are relevant for assessment within particular contexts, and respective indicator metrics. Finally, we illustrate the proposed approach by developing an assessment framework for evaluating a wide range of intensification pathways in Europe. The application of the approach revealed processes and effects that are relevant for the European context but are rarely considered in SI assessments. These include farmers’ health, workers’ living conditions, cultural heritage and sense of place of rural communities, animal welfare, impacts on sectors not directly related to agriculture (e.g., tourism), shrinking and ageing of rural population and consumers’ health. The proposed approach addresses important gaps in SI assessments, and thus represents an important step forward in defining transparent procedures for sustainability assessments that can stimulate an informed debate about the operationalisation of SI and its contribution towards achieving SDGs.
Roux Nicolas
added a research item
The global livestock system puts increasing pressures on ecosystems. Studies analyzing the ecological impacts of livestock supply chains often explain this pressure by the increasing demand for animal products. Food regime theory proposes a more nuanced perspective: it explains livestock-related pressures on ecosystems by systemic changes along the supply chains of feed and animal products, notably the liberalization of agricultural trade. This study proposes a framework supporting empirical analyses of such claims by differentiating several steps of livestock supply chains. We reconstructed “trilateral” livestock supply chains linking feed production, livestock farming, and final consumption, based on the global flows of 161 feed and 13 animal products between 222 countries from 1986 to 2013. We used the embodied Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production (eHANPP) indicator to quantify pressures on ecosystems linked to these trilateral livestock supply chains. We find that livestock induced 65 % of agriculture's pressure on ecosystems, mostly through cattle grazing. Between 1986 and 2013, the fraction of livestock-related eHANPP that was traded internationally doubled from 7.1 % to 15.6 %. eHANPP related to the trade of feed was mostly linked to soybean imported for pig meat production, whereas eHANPP associated to traded animal products was mostly linked to cattle meat. eHANPP of traded animal products was lower but increased faster than eHANPP of feed trade. eHANPP was highest at the feed production level in South and North America, and at the consumption level in Eastern Asia. In Northern Asia and Eastern Europe, eHANPP was lowest at the animal products production level. In Western Europe, the eHANPP was equal at the animal products production and consumption levels. Our findings suggest that options to reduce livestock's pressures on ecosystems exist at all levels of the supply chain, especially by reducing the production and consumption in high-consuming countries and regulating international supply chains.
Perrine Laroche
added a research item
Leisure travel within the European Union (EU) contributes significantly to the carbon footprint of global tourism. Distance travelled is a main factor in this impact, but some of its determinants remain unexplored. We examined the role of tourists' holiday preferences in shaping the carbon footprint of leisure travel within the EU by calculating demand and impact indicators associated with eight holiday styles. We find a substantial and equivalent carbon footprint for visiting relatives, nature tourism and sea, sun and sand tourism, but a higher carbon intensity of travel per trip for the latter. This is due to widespread demand for sea, sun, and sand tourism despite the concentration of destinations in Southern Europe. Furthermore, international travel within the EU is on average three times more carbon intensive than domestic travel. Our insights suggest that tourists’ holiday preferences can be leveraged for the sustainable development of leisure travel within the EU.
Louise Marie Busck Lumholt
added 2 research items
The opportunities and challenges of ensuring participation and success of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) have been fairly studied. However, it is not often well-established which institutional mechanisms explain the failure in meeting participatory and project goals. To fill this gap, we develop a telecoupling-inspired diagnostic approach to assess the level of institutional distance and opportunity for collective decision-making in ICDPs by looking at project information flows, project asset flows, and rules and regulation flows between project actors. We construct three management archetypes based on the direction and directness of such flows: decoupled management, telecoupled management and collaborative management. The archetypes are applied to a case study of a World Bank-financed ICDP in Argentina, drawing on qualitative data collected from individual interviews with project actors. Our findings challenge the notion that a project becomes participatory if the project design provides guidelines for participatory implementation. We find that our diagnostic approach helps to concretize the call for inclusion of local project actors across the project cycle, which is needed to make projects collaborative, relevant, and socially just. Finally, we advocate future project assessments to build on this approach and map the practical institutional relationships between project actors to provide transparency on the de facto level of project collaboration. This article is relevant for both academics and practitioners designing and implementing conservation and development projects.
This article illustrates the potential of the telecoupling framework to improve causal attribution in land system science (LSS). We shed light on the distinct analytical approaches that have characterized telecoupling research to date, how these can contribute to LSS with new insights, and whether such insights can improve causal attribution. By reviewing 45 empirical telecoupling studies, we firstly demonstrate how telecoupling is applied in a broad variety of ways within LSS and across different disciplines and research topics, albeit with qualitative data and assessments being underrepresented. Secondly, we show that telecoupling is clearer in its contribution to causal attribution when applied explicitly in framework integration or empirical application, rather than when it is included more indirectly as a narrative. Finally, we argue that telecoupling can complement existing LSS theory with a flexible and holistic approach to dealing with the uncertainties and complexities related to attributing causality in a globalized world.
Finn Mempel
added a research item
Brazil plays a central role in Western depictions of and narratives on tropical deforestation. In this contribution, we gather a large text corpus from Western media outlets with articles on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The sources include outlets from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia and span a time period from the late 1980s to 2020. Leveraging several text-mining approaches, such as topic modeling and automated narrative network analysis, we disentangle the way that Western media have tried to make sense of deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado biomes. We show that the former has received disproportionately more news coverage, specifically in times of international concern over the Brazilian government's commitment to tackle deforestation. Further, Western media frequently report on the struggles of indigenous populations in the Amazon, often following an essenti-alist depiction of these communities, while in the case of the Cerrado, traditional populations are hardly mentioned at all. Our findings provide a methodologically innovative and empirically grounded case for the often raised concern over a relative invisibility of the Cerrado biome and its traditional populations, which may help explain observed disparities in governance interventions.
Johanna Coenen
added a research item
Environmental governance is increasingly challenged by global flows, which connect distant places through trade, investment and movement of people. To date, research on this topic has been dispersed across multiple fields and diverse theoretical perspectives. We present the results of a systematic literature review of 120 journal articles on the environmental governance of global flows and their environmental impacts, employing the notion of telecoupling as a common analytical lens. Six themes emerged, which can guide a comparative and policy-relevant research agenda on governing global telecoupling: (1) advancement of problem-centered research (as opposed to studying existing governance arrangements), (2) displacement of environmental burdens from Global North to South from a telecoupling perspective, (3) environmental governance of telecoupling between Global South countries, (4) policy coherence in governing global flows, (5) cross-scalar interactions between private and public governance and (6) combinations of governance arrangements to effectively address environmental problems in telecoupled settings.
Johanna Coenen
added 2 research items
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to increase trans-continental connectivity and cooperation mainly through infrastructure investments and trade. On the one hand, this globally unparalleled initiative is expected to foster economic growth, but on the other hand, it can have substantial environmental implications. The BRI creates new challenges and opportunities for environmental governance as new actor constellations emerge in BRI host countries to plan and construct large infrastructure projects. Although China has outlined its vision of building a “green Belt and Road”, it remains unknown how it unfolds on the ground. As an example of a BRI project with clear environmental implications, we present a case study of the Bar-Boljare highway in Montenegro. Based on expert interviews, we elucidate the complex web of actors and contractual arrangements involved, and demonstrate how internal and external actors exert influence on domestic environmental governance in this EU candidate country in the Western Balkans. We find that Montenegro has substantial agency over the environmental governance of this BRI project, but shows little concern over the environmental impacts of the project. Environmental issues could have been prevented during the spatial planning phase, but important governance instruments such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were of limited effectiveness due to its fast and late completion, lack of assessment of alternative routes, and the limited enforcement of the provisions therein. International institutions like the EU or UNESCO have drawn on their normative power in environmental governance to demand greater environmental safeguards from Montenegrin authorities. This case is illustrative of a larger set of BRI projects which run the risk of falling short on sustainability due to a lack of environmentally sound and transparent planning and implementation.
Roux Nicolas
added a research item
Changing the structure of the economy is often considered an option to reduce environmental impacts – for example, by changing the mix of sectors in the economy, the energy mix of production, or the mix of origin countries for imported products. To study the effect of such structure (or mix) effects, researchers often use index decomposition analysis (IDA). This study uses experimental data to show that most existing IDA methods, especially the widely used LMDI (logarithmic mean divisia index), yield results that are difficult to understand and easily misinterpreted. We use formal proof to demonstrate that: •The LMDI interpretation problem is due to the use of shares to describe the considered mix. •We developed an alternative method, the Marshall-Edgeworth with Structure Effects (MESE). •The MESE defines structure effects by comparing each observation to a hypothetical average, which better reflects the common understanding of structure effects. We compared empirical data on the LMDI and the MESE, analysing the effect of the changing sector mix on energy use in the USA from 1995 to 2016, and found that results from the two tools differed significantly. We therefore recommend using the MESE when structure effects are included in IDA.
Anna Frohn Pedersen
added a research item
In land system science (LSS), the globalisation of land use is often understood via trade flows. Fewer studies have explored the power asymmetries and local resistance that shape global connections. Consequently, calls for a deeper engagement with power and agency have been made within LSS. To accommodate this, we engage the ethnographic literature on encounters, emphasising the concepts of resistance and friction. These capture the ways actors position themselves in global systems, resist, and create global connections. To illustrate its relevance for land systems, we use qualitative data from the mining sector of Tanzania, highlighting the emergence of resource nationalism as an alternative form of globalisation (alter-globalisation). We argue that a focus on resistance, friction and alter-globalisation can move LSS towards a deeper engagement with power and agency in global flows, revealing the competing actors, values and visions embedded in land systems.
Claudia Parra
added a research item
Impact assessments are used to raise evidence and guide the implementation of sustainability strategies in commodity value chains. Due to methodological and data difficulties, most assessments of agricultural commodities capture the impacts occurring at the farm-level but often dismiss or oversimplify the impacts caused by land use dynamics at larger geographic scale. In this study we analyzed the impacts of two cocoa production systems, full-sun and agroforestry, at the farm-level and beyond the farm-level. We used life cycle assessment to calculate the impacts at the farm-level and a combination of land use modelling with spatial analysis to calculate the impacts beyond the farm-level. We applied this to three different future cocoa production scenarios. The impacts at the farm-level showed that, due to lower yields, cocoa agroforestry performs worse than cocoa full-sun for most impact indicators. However, the impacts beyond the farm-level showed that promoting cocoa agroforestry in the landscape can bring the largest gains in carbon and biodiversity. A scenario analysis of the impacts at the landscape-level showed large nuances depending on the cocoa farming system adopted, market dynamics, and nature conservation policies. The analysis indicated that increasing cocoa demand does not necessarily result in negative impacts for carbon stocks and biodiversity, if sustainable land management and sustainable intensification are adopted. Landscape-level impacts can be larger than farm-level impacts or show completely opposite direction, which highlights the need to complement farm-level assessments with assessments accounting for land use dynamics beyond the farm-level.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
Land use is central to addressing sustainability issues, including biodiversity conservation, climate change, food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable energy. In this paper, we synthesize knowledge accumulated in land system science, the integrated study of terrestrial social-ecological systems, into 10 hard truths that have strong, general, empirical support. These facts help to explain the challenges of achieving sustainability in land use and thus also point toward solutions. The 10 facts are as follows: 1) Meanings and values of land are socially constructed and contested; 2) land systems exhibit complex behaviors with abrupt, hard-to-predict changes; 3) irreversible changes and path dependence are common features of land systems; 4) some land uses have a small footprint but very large impacts; 5) drivers and impacts of land-use change are globally interconnected and spill over to distant locations; 6) humanity lives on a used planet where all land provides benefits to societies; 7) land-use change usually entails trade-offs between different benefits—"win–wins" are thus rare; 8) land tenure and land-use claims are often unclear, overlapping, and contested; 9) the benefits and burdens from land are unequally distributed; and 10) land users have multiple, sometimes conflicting, ideas of what social and environmental justice entails. The facts have implications for governance, but do not provide fixed answers. Instead they constitute a set of core principles which can guide scientists, policy makers, and practitioners toward meeting sustainability challenges in land use.
Floris Leijten
added a research item
Many companies sourcing agricultural commodities with high deforestation risk have committed to zero deforestation, meaning they intend to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. While previous research has attempted to assess progress against such initiatives, little is known about how the characteristics of sourcing patterns may influence the adoption and potential effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments. Supply chain stickiness – here defined as the geographic persistence in trade relationships between traders and sourcing regions over time – may reflect lock-in effects and the level of trust between the parties involved. Here, we use a metric of supply chain stickiness, calculated from temporal network analyses on the Brazilian soy export supply chain, as a proxy for these underlying dynamics to explore their effect on the adoption and effectiveness of zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs). Using data for 2004–2017, we find that although stickier traders are more likely to adopt ZDCs, they also appear to have less effective ZDCs than other traders (as indicated by the level of soy and territorial deforestation in their sourcing regions). This finding suggests that additional strategies are needed to increase the effectiveness of ZDCs.
Siyu Qin
added a research item
Land-use frontiers, such as agriculture expanding into forests, remain a major driver of biodiversity loss, and often lead to conservation responses. To better understand the geographies of conservation, connecting conservation with tools used widely in Land System Science – particularly the frontier concept – allows assessing the patterns, actors, and drivers of conservation. We propose that land conservation can be analysed through three different perspectives. First, conservation can be framed as efforts to slow or stop other frontiers. Second, the expansion of conservation could itself be described as a frontier process, similarly leading to institutional and cultural reorganization, and sometimes conflicts (e.g. green grabbing). Third, frontiers can be seen as spaces where multiple land uses, including conservation, interact. Analysing conservation through these perspectives could be particularly powerful to thoroughly consider the social-ecological contexts in which conservation happens, and thus to bridge the disciplines of Land System Science and Conservation Science.
Siyu Qin
added a research item
International funding is increasingly important in supporting conservation in mega-biodiverse countries. However, it remains unclear which donors invest in which conservation objectives and where, making it difficult to identify gaps and key actors to influence. Here we identified 1947 foreign-aided conservation projects in South America's major deforestation frontiers and summarized their objectives and interventions over time and space. We found that conserving nature for its own sake and for ecosystem services remained key objectives, but the types of interventions varied considerably over time. Geographically, international conservation prioritized moist forests over drier biomes, despite equally high deforestation risk. Different donor groups emphasized specific objectives and interventions that reflected socioecological links (e.g., bird migration, colonial history) between donating and receiving regions, as well as the donors' values (e.g., iconic/endangered species, human rights). These telecoupled patterns provide both opportunities and barriers for conservation and have implications for conservation prioritization strategies.
Roux Nicolas
added a research item
Previous research has shown that no country currently meets the basic needs of its residents at a level of resource use that could be sustainably extended to all people globally. Using the doughnut-shaped ‘safe and just space’ framework, we analyse the historical dynamics of 11 social indicators and 6 biophysical indicators across more than 140 countries from 1992 to 2015. We find that countries tend to transgress biophysical boundaries faster than they achieve social thresholds. The number of countries overshooting biophysical boundaries increased over the period from 32–55% to 50–66%, depending on the indicator. At the same time, the number of countries achieving social thresholds increased for five social indicators (in particular life expectancy and educational enrolment), decreased for two indicators (social support and equality) and showed little change for the remaining four indicators. We also calculate ‘business-as-usual’ projections to 2050, which suggest deep transformations are needed to safeguard human and planetary health. Current trends will only deepen the ecological crisis while failing to eliminate social shortfalls.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
Despite the popularity of integrated conservation and development approaches to protected area management, adjacent communities increasingly face livelihood dilemmas. Yet understanding of how market processes and conservation enforcement interact to influence livelihood responses remains limited. Targeting eight villages in Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Park in northern Lao PDR, we draw on survey data with 255 households, 93 semi-structured interviews, and meso-level data on village conditions to examine how residents navigate associated livelihood dilemmas. A cluster analysis reveals five livelihood types with divergent capacities to engage in market development and cope with enforcement pressures. We show how market linkages, historical conservation interventions, and local access conditions shape livelihoods and differences between villages. Our approach yields a nuanced picture of how global conservation efforts result in an uneven distribution of costs and benefits at local scales. Conservation measures must account for highly divergent capacities to cope with access loss and diversify livelihoods. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10745-021-00267-4.
Anna Frohn Pedersen
added a research item
This paper examines the newly established mineral markets in Tanzania. These markets aim to ensure tax revenue collection and enhance the transparency of mineral trade within the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Geita Region, we show that the enhanced transparency facilitated by these new markets has benefitted artisanal and small-scale gold miners. However, the living conditions of the miners and opportunities for profit have not changed significantly and the miners do not expect that a more transparent value chain will improve their lives. Many miners continue to depend on sponsorships from more powerful actors, which narrows their ability to profit from transparent market structures. Based on these findings , we discuss the ambiguity of transparency, as its transformative potentials are both important and limited and we argue that transparency for small-scale producers is not a straightforward path towards their empowerment.
Johanna Coenen
added a research item
Given the interconnectedness of climate change and sustainable development, policymakers and scholars have started to investigate how climate actions can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and vice versa. To date, research has mainly focused on the national and international levels, while little is known about the interlinkages between climate actions and the SDGs at the transnational level. Not only nation states, but also non-state actors undertake ambitious actions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote sustainable development. Using content analysis and network analysis techniques, we examine the interlinkages between the climate actions of 72 transnational initiatives and the 169 targets of the 17 SDGs. We find that actions of 71 initiatives contribute to achieving 16 SDGs, thus generating valuable co-benefits. Besides SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 17 on partnerships for the goals, transnational climate actions frequently address SDGs 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, and SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production. While SDG 3 on good health and well-being and SDG 4 on quality education are barely addressed, SDG 5 on gender equality is not at all covered by transnational climate actions. Additionally, the network reveals that SDG 9 is highly synergistic with many other frequently addressed SDGs and functions as an important connector between them. Finally, our results indicate that transnational initiatives fill a governance gap left by states with regards to SDG 12. Climate initiatives of non-state actors can thus complement state-led actions to implement the Paris Agreement and the SDGs jointly.
Floris Leijten
added a research item
Moratoria on commodities produced in deforestation-risk areas have been shown to be highly effective in reducing deforestation within targeted areas. Various studies have shown, however, that such policies are prone to large local spillover effects, i.e., non-trivial changes (reductions or increases) in the amount of deforestation in areas just outside the direct scope of the moratorium. Little is known about the direction and magnitude of local spillover effects that may have been induced by the Indonesian forest moratorium, an anti-deforestation policy enacted in 2011 that covers around a third of Indonesia's terrestrial area and that is of high importance in meeting international deforestation goals. Here, we empirically assess the evidence of spillover effects near the Indonesian moratorium boundaries, using several proximity metrics and a panel dataset spanning the years 2001-2018. Based on our negative binomial fixed effects regressions, we estimate that the moratorium induced 1324 km 2 of deforestation in areas located within 10 km of the targeted areas in the period 2011-2018, most of which occurred near conservation and protection forests. Evidence of spillover effects is also strong within concession areas slated for development. This suggests that companies may have shifted their planned production activities from areas targeted by the moratorium to neighbouring concession areas, resulting in additional forest loss. To minimize or halt such spillover effects, the scope of the Indonesian moratorium could be expanded to high-deforestation risk areas, such as forest areas outside mountainous regions, with relatively high GDP per capita and high agro-ecological suitability for oil palm plantations. In addition, a higher uptake of certification schemes and increased international finance would complement the moratorium, helping to reduce incentives to deforest both within and outside the moratorium areas.
Perrine Laroche
added a research item
Nearly three-quarters of global natural rubber production is used to produce tyres, supporting mobility around the globe. The projected increase in mobility could contribute to further expansion of rubber plantations and impact tropical ecosystems. We quantified the use of natural rubber in tyres in the European Union (EU), the corresponding land footprint, and explored drivers of tyre use using country-specific transport statistics and trade registers of rubber goods. Five percent of the world’s natural rubber is consumed in tyres used in the EU, using up to a quarter of the area under rubber plantations in some producing countries. Car use is responsible for 58% of this consumption, due to car-dependent lifestyles that are associated with economic prosperity and spatial planning paradigms. While the EU’s transport policy focuses on reducing dependence on fossil-fuels, cross-cutting policies are needed to address car-dependency and reduce the EU’s land footprint in tropical landscapes without compromising progress towards decarbonisation.
Finn Mempel
added 2 research items
Distant impacts arising from patterns of consumption and trade are increasingly being recognized and addressed. Deforestation associated with trade in agricultural commodities and mineral resources has received a lot of attention in research, advocacy groups and media outlets. Governance initiatives, such as round-tables or certification schemes, often focusing on corporate stakeholders, have tried to respond to this increasing pressure. However, the attention to certain issues and their specific framing can lead to governance initiatives, which single out certain regions of interest and particular types of solutions. In this contribution, a large text corpus from Western media outlets with articles on deforestation in several Brazilian biomes is gathered. The sources include outlets from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia and span a time period from the late 1980s to 2020. Leveraging several text-mining approaches, such as topic modeling and automated narrative network analysis, we disentangle the way that Western media have tried to make sense of deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado biomes over time, which actors have been portrayed to perform certain actions and what this has meant regarding the allocation of responsibility. We use a Structural Topic Model (STM) algorithm to separate distinct key issues and Named Entity Recognition (NER) approaches to identify key actors. Using advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms, texts are filtered for Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) triplets to create networks of common actions performed on certain objects and by different actors.
Rapid soybean expansion in South America has been linked to numerous socio-environmental problems, including deforestation in sensitive biomes. As a major importing region of soybeans, wider public awareness has also put pressure on the European Union. Different governance initiatives involving various groups of stakeholders have sought to address these issues. However, what is identified as a relevant problem, as a region of interest or which actors are mentioned in this context are all matters of claims-making processes between different groups and mediated through various channels of communication. This study uses a text-mining approach to trace the construction of socio-ecological problems related to soybean expansion and the actors and regions linked with these issues in public discourse. The focus lies on print media from the European Union, but several additional sources are included to investigate the similarities and differences between various communication channels and regions. These include newspaper articles from producing countries and international news agencies, scientific abstracts, corporate statements, and reports from advocacy groups gathered from the mid-1990s to 2020. The results show that European mass media have shifted their focus from consumer labeling, health, and concerns over genetically modified organisms towards more distant or abstract phenomena, such as deforestation and climate change. This has been accompanied with a broader view on different stakeholders, but also with a strong regional focus on the Amazon biome. There has also been much less attention on direct concerns for communities in producing regions, such as land conflicts or disputes over intellectual property rights. We conclude that while European public spheres appear to become more receptive to issues related to impacts in sourcing regions, there remains a narrow focus on specific problems and regions, which reflects a fundamental asymmetry in different stakeholders' ability to shape transnational deliberations and resulting governance processes.
Roux Nicolas
added a research item
Biomass production generates land use impacts in the form of emissions from Forestry and Other Land Use (FOLU), i.e. due to changes in ecosystem carbon stocks. Recently, consumption-based accounting (CBA) approaches have emerged as alternatives to conventional production-based accounts, quantifying FOLU emissions associated with biomass consumption, for example, of particular territories. However, the quantification and allocation of FOLU emissions to individual biomass products, a fundamental part of CBA approaches, is a complex endeavour. Existing studies make diverging methodological choices, which are rarely critically discussed. In this study, we provide a structured overview of existing CBA approaches to estimating FOLU emissions. We cluster the literature in a two-by-two grid, distinguishing the primary element under investigation (impacts of changing consumption patterns in a region vs. impacts of consumption on production landscapes) and the analytical lens (prospective vs retrospective). Further, we identify three distinct dimensions which characterise the way in which different studies allocate FOLU emissions to biomass products: the choice of reference system and the spatial and temporal scales. Finally, we identify three frontiers that require future attention: (1) overcoming structural biases which underestimate FOLU emissions from territories that experienced deforestation in the distant past, (2) explicitly tackling the interdependence of proximate causes and ultimate drivers of land use change, and (3) assessing uncertainties and understanding the effects of land management. In this way, we enable a critical assessment of appropriate methods, support a nuanced interpretation of results from particular approaches as well as enhance the informative value of CBA approaches related to FOLU emissions. Our analysis contributes to discussions on sustainable land use practices with respect to biomass consumption and has implications for informing international climate policy in scenarios where consumption-based approaches are adopted in practice.
Simon Bager
added a research item
Despite the importance of tropical forest conservation in achieving global sustainability goals and the key role of forest-risk commodity trade in driving deforestation, consumer country policy options for reducing imported deforestation have received limited scholarly attention. Drawing on gray literature and a European Commission public consultation, we identify 86 policy options for the European Union to address deforestation. We assess the political feasibility and map the “theory of change” (TOC)—the causal chain through which the policies address deforestation—for each of these policy options, identifying a trade-off between feasibility and potential impacts: information-based and cooperative policies, which dominate our sample, typically exhibit high feasibility, but mostly lack convincing TOCs, while more stringent regulatory and market-based policy options generally have lower feasibility. We propose three principles for overcoming the feasibility-impact dilemma: (1) build policies on proven TOCs, (2) use policy mixes, and (3) work with key stakeholders, supply chains, and regions.
Anna Frohn Pedersen
added a research item
Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a vital livelihood practice around the world, especially in the Global South. In Tanzania, millions of people depend on artisanal and small-scale gold mining and many of these people are in Geita, the main gold mining region of Tanzania. Based on qualitative research conducted in this region, this paper engages the artisanal and small-scale miners’ experiences of gold mining. It highlights how extracting gold is experienced as increasingly difficult and how miners worry that gold reserves will be exhausted in the near future. Academic attention and policy making have focused on formalization and sustainable management of ASM, addressing current practices and their social and environmental impacts. However, a knowledge gap remains in the understanding of livelihood implications that emerge when mineral sources are nearing exhaustion and they become harder to extract. In Geita, this has led miners to diversify their investments and consider alternative livelihood strategies. With a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this paper calls for a broader sustainability discussion on ASM, as well as a better integration of ASM into the SDG agenda. This integration should consider exit strategies for miners as their livelihoods depend upon non-renewable resources.
Floris Leijten
added a research item
The production of palm oil, soy, beef and timber are key drivers of global forest loss. For this reason, over 470 companies involved in the production, processing or distribution of these commodities have issued commitments to eliminate or reduce deforestation from their supply chains. However, the effectiveness of these commitments is uncertain since there is considerable variation in ambition and scope and there are no globally agreed definitions of what constitutes a forest. Many commitments identify high conservation value forests (HCVFs), high carbon stock forests (HCSFs) and forests on tropical peatland as priority areas for conservation. This allows for mapping of the global extent of forest areas classified as such, to achieve an assessment of the area that may be at reduced risk of development if companies comply with their zero deforestation commitments. Depending on the criteria used, the results indicate that between 34% and 74% of global forests qualify as either HCVF, HCSF or forests on tropical peatland. However, we found that the total extent of these forest areas varies widely depending on the choice of forest map. Within forests which were not designated as HCVF, HCSF or forests on tropical peatland, there is substantial overlap with areas that are highly suitable for agricultural development. Since these areas are unlikely to be protected by zero-deforestation commitments, they may be subject to increased pressure resulting from leakage of areas designated as HCVF, HCSF and tropical peatland forests. Considerable uncertainties around future outcomes remain, since only a proportion of the global market is currently covered by corporate commitments. Further work is needed to map the synergies between corporate commitments and government policies on land use. In addition, standardized criteria for delineating forests covered by the commitments are recommended.
Gabi Sonderegger
added a research item
Telecoupling is an integrative social-ecological framework that has made important contributions to understanding land change processes in a hyperconnected world. Visualizations are a powerful tool to communicate knowledge about telecoupling phenomena. However, little is known about current practices of telecoupling visualization and the challenges involved in visually displaying connections between multiple social-ecological systems. Our research takes stock of existing telecoupling visualizations and provides recommendations for improving current practices. We systematically review 118 visualizations presented in the scientific literature on telecoupling, and assess them in terms of their content and the adopted visualization approaches. To this end, we conceptualize telecoupling visualizations through a network lens. We find that they typically present networks of social-ecological systems, which are linked through flows. Displays of telecoupling connections through actor networks or action situation networks are less frequent. We categorize the existing visualizations into seven main types, which differ in terms of the visual encoding strategies used to represent telecoupling components. We then draw on insights from data visualization literature to reflect critically upon these current practices and provide practical recommendations. Finally, we show that network perspectives are inherent in telecoupling research and visualizations, and may deserve further attention in this field.
Roux Nicolas
added a research item
Agriculture contributes to deforestation and the conversion of other terrestrial ecosystems, affecting important ecosystem functions. A growing share of the produced agricultural commodities is traded between countries. It is widely assumed that international trade reduces humanity's pressure on land ecosystems by optimizing the mix of origin, i.e. by sourcing products from countries where land is used more efficiently. We examined if recent changes in the origin of agricultural products reduced humanity's impact on a fundamental ecosystem function, the net primary production (NPP) of vegetation. We performed an index decomposition analysis on a dataset of human appropriation of net primary production embodied in bilateral trade flows of 392 agricultural products between 167 countries (eHANPP) from 1986 to 2011. We found that while changes in the origin of agricultural products globally reduced HANPP in the 1990s, this trend reversed since 1999. This turn is explained by the increased sourcing of agricultural products from tropical regions, for exports and domestic consumption. After 2008, countries-on average-increasingly sourced their agricultural products from less efficient regions than in 1986. Our results suggest that the potential of trade to reduce humanity's impact on land ecosystems has not been exploited in the recent past.
Simon Bager
added a research item
Trade agreements could help to protect human rights, critical ecosystems, and the climate—but only if sustainability becomes a cornerstone of international trade. The EU-Mercosur trade agreement fails to meet our three tenets of sustainable trade agreements: (1) inclusion of local communities, (2) transparency mechanisms to trace commodities and provide open-access information, and (3) enforcement to legally uphold sustainability commitments.
Gabi Sonderegger
added a research item
Engaging with normative questions in land system science is a key challenge. This debate paper highlights the potential of incorporating elements of environmental justice scholarship into the evolving telecoupling framework that focuses on distant interactions in land systems. We first expose the reasons why environmental justice matters in understanding tele-coupled systems, and the relevant approaches suited to mainstream environmental justice into telecoupled contexts. We then explore which specific elements of environmental justice need to be incorporated into telecou-pling research. We focus on 1) the distribution of social-ecological burdens and benefits across distances, 2) power and justice issues in governing distantly tied systems, and 3) recognition issues in information flows, fram-ings and discourses across distances. We conclude our paper highlighting key mechanisms to address injustices in telecoupled land systems.
Simon Bager
added a research item
The coffee sector is facing several sustainability challenges. We ask whether addressing these is transforming the entire coffee sector or rather leading to market differentiation. Drawing on stakeholder theory and global value chain analysis, we analyse how the coffee sector approaches sustainability by examining the sustainability efforts of a random sample of 513 companies. We also identify the factors shaping the adoption of sustainability strategies. A third of companies report no commitment to sustainability, whereas another third report vague commitment. The final third of companies report tangible commitments to sustainability. Company characteristics and stakeholders affect the scope and type of sustainability strategy chosen. Large, risk‐aware companies tend to conduct ‘hands‐on’ governance, adopting internal sustainability practices along their value chain. Small, consumer‐facing companies and producers rely on ‘hands‐off’ governance, adopting external voluntary sustainability standards. Several sustainability issues remain underaddressed by most companies, including climate change and deforestation. We found indications of potential greenwashing by some companies. Addressing sustainability is not yet fully mainstreamed in the sector, though ambitious commitments by sustainability leaders and large actors signal increasing importance of sustainability as part of corporate social responsibility efforts. We observe market differentiation through sustainability with progressive companies adopting sustainability strategies that align with their stakeholders, depending on value chain characteristics. Our results indicate a notable reliance on internal sustainability practices. There is a need for common coffee sustainability indicators relevant for all actors along the value chain, which are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals, and a transparent, mandatory reporting framework.
Tiago Reis
added a research item
Commodity trade is central to the global economy but is also associated with socio-environmental impacts, for example, deforestation, especially in producer countries. It is crucial to understand how geographic sourcing patterns of commodities and commercial relationships between places and actors influence land-use dynamics, socio-economic development, and environmental degradation. Here, we propose a concept and methodological approach to analyze the geographic stickiness of commodity supply chains, which is the maintenance of supply network configurations over time and across perturbations. We showcase policy-relevant metrics for all Brazilian soy exports between 2003 and 2017, using high-resolution supply chain data from www.trase.earth. We find that the Brazilian soy traders with the largest market share exhibit stickier geographic sourcing patterns, and that the supply network configurations between production places and traders become increasingly sticky in subsequent years. Understanding trade stickiness is crucial for supply chain accountability, because it directly affects the effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments.
Jens Newig
added a research item
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, is rapidly subsuming much of China's political and economic involvement abroad. As a far‐reaching infrastructure development and investment strategy, officially involving more than 130 countries, the expansion of the BRI raises important questions about its environmental impacts and its implications for environmental governance. This article examines how China is actively and rapidly developing an institutional architecture for its envisioned “green BRI,” considering the key actors, policies, and initiatives involved in the environmental governance of the BRI. We find that the current institutional architecture of the “green BRI” relies on voluntary corporate self‐governance and a multitude of international and transnational sustainability initiatives. The effectiveness of the environmental governance of the BRI not only hinges on China's priorities and commitments, but also on the political willingness and capacity of BRI partner countries to maintain, implement, and enforce stringent environmental laws and regulations. We conclude by outlining several environmental governance challenges and an agenda for future research.
Simon Bager
added a research item
Consumer countries play an important role in driving tropical deforestation through imports of forest risk commodities (FRCs), but their role in reducing deforestation has received limited scholarly attention. Drawing on suggestions from grey literature and a European Commission (EC) public consultation, we identify 1,141 policy proposals for the EU and other consumer countries to address tropical deforestation, which we summarize into 86 unique policy options. Two-third of these are informational and supportive policies, while regulatory and especially market-based options are less-often proposed. We assess the political feasibility and map the 'theory of change' (TOC) through which the policies address tropical deforestation. Several feasible options exist, though most of these rely on less coercive-informational and cooperative-policy instruments. Most policy proposals lack an explicit and proven TOC, reducing their potential impact on reducing deforestation. Due diligence and multi-stakeholder fora stand out as policies that are feasible, yet rest on convincing TOCs. To increase the feasibility and impact of consumer-country deforestation policy options, we propose three principles: i) Build policies on a clear theory of change, ii) apply policy packaging and sequencing, and iii) work with stakeholders in key supply-chains and regions, broadening scope over time.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
Increasing evidence—synthesized in this paper—shows that economic growth contributes to biodiversity loss via greater resource consumption and higher emissions. Nonetheless, a review of international biodiversity and sustainability policies shows that the majority advocate economic growth. Since improvements in resource use efficiency have so far not allowed for absolute global reductions in resource use and pollution, we question the support for economic growth in these policies, where inadequate attention is paid to the question of how growth can be decoupled from biodiversity loss. Drawing on the literature about alternatives to economic growth, we explore this contradiction and suggest ways forward to halt global biodiversity decline. These include policy proposals to move beyond the growth paradigm while enhancing overall prosperity, which can be implemented by combining top‐down and bottom‐up governance across scales. Finally, we call the attention of researchers and policy makers to two immediate steps: acknowledge the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation in future policies; and explore socioeconomic trajectories beyond economic growth in the next generation of biodiversity scenarios.
Perrine Laroche
added 2 research items
Low-meat and no-meat diets are increasingly acknowledged as sustainable alternatives to current Western food consumption patterns. Concerns for the environment, individual health or animal welfare are raising consumers’ willingness to adopt such diets. Dietary shifts in Western countries may modify the way human-environment systems interact over distances, primarily as a result of existing trade flows in food products. Global studies have focused on the amount of water, land, and CO2 emissions embodied in plant-based versus animal-based proteins, but the potential of alternative diets to shift the location of environmental impacts has not yet been investigated. We build on footprint and trade-based analyses to compare the magnitude and spatial allocation of the impacts of six diets of consumers in the United States of America (USA). We used data on declared diets as well as a stylized average diet and a recent dietary guideline integrating health and environmental targets. We demonstrate that low-meat and no-meat diets have a lower demand for land and utilize more crops with natural nitrogen fixation potential, yet also rely more widely on pollinator abundance and diversity, and can increase impacts on freshwater ecosystems in some countries. We recommend that governments carefully consider the local impacts of the alternative diets they promote, and minimize trade-offs between the global and local consequences of dietary shifts through regulation or incentives.
Human impact on ecosystems through land use has dramatically increased over the last century. The drivers of this land use have typically been decomposed into population, consumption per capita and land intensity of production. This simple decomposition has often led to misinterpretations, implying that quantities consumed could only be reduced through demand-side measures. In this poster, we first argue that supply and demand based decompositions reveal different drivers and must hence be analyzed separately. We then show that demand side measures are only efficient if the price elasticity of demand is low and the price elasticity of supply is high. We conclude that strategies to govern telecouplings must therefore target the drivers that have a high driving power, and the lowest price elasticity.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
Since the 1970s the government of Burkina Faso together with international donor organizations has pushed for increasing national rice production to cope with the country's food import dependency. This paper traces this development and illustrates that rice production in Burkina Faso is the outcome of interrelated global and local processes. Drawing on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Burkina Faso the paper sketches the historical, legal and socioeconomic conditions, challenges and practices behind the increasing rice production. Focusing on the Bagré Growth Pole Project, we describe how particular configurations of local, national and global connections and disconnections around the creation of a Burkinabe rice market are brought into being. A major point of the paper is to illustrate that combining systemic and processual theoretical perspectives is highly illuminating in this respect. Concretely, the paper achieves this by bringing into dialogue the telecoupling literature concerned with the globalization of land-use change and the geographies of marketization literature focusing on market-making practices. This allows understanding the rice market described as an ongoing and grounded process within a global systemic configuration.
Simon Bager
added a research item
Commodity trade is central to the global economy but is also associated with socio-environmental impacts, e.g., deforestation, especially in producer countries. It is crucial to understand how geographic sourcing patterns of commodities, and commercial relationships between places and actors, influence land use dynamics, socio-economic development, and environmental degradation. For this purpose, we propose a concept and methodological approach to analyze geographic stickiness in commodity supply chains, which is the capacity of supply network configurations to be maintained over time and across perturbations. We showcase policy-relevant metrics for all Brazilian soy exports between 2003 and 2017, using high-resolution supply chain data from www.trase.earth. We find that the Brazilian soy traders with the largest market-share exhibit stickier geographic sourcing patterns, and that the linkages between production places and traders become increasingly sticky over time. Understanding trade stickiness is crucial for supply chain accountability because it directly affects the effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
The increasing global interconnectivity influencing land system change brings with it new challenges for land-system science. We evaluate whether recent land-system science (LSS) research into telecoupling provides a basis to set normative goals or priorities for addressing sustainability in coupled human-natural systems. We summarize the challenges for sustainability in an increasingly telecoupled world, particularly the coordination of multisited, multiscalar networks of public and private sector actors. Transnational flows of capital, commodities, energy, people, and waste often span multiple territorial jurisdictions. Thus, effective governance of such systems requires attention to collective decision-making and negotiation among governments, firms, land users, consumers, financial actors, and others.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a research item
Science should provide solutions for societal transformations toward sustainability in the face of global environmental change. Land system science, as a systemic science focused on complex socio-ecological interactions around land use and associated trade-offs and synergies, is well placed to contribute to this agenda. This goal requires a stronger engagement with the normative implications of scientific practice, research topics, questions and results. We identify concerns as well as three concrete steps for land system science to more deeply contribute in normative issues. In particular, we encourage land system scientists to discuss explicitly the normative questions, values, perspectives and assumptions already present in our research, as well as to identify key normative research questions to contribute to societal transformations.
Louise Marie Busck Lumholt
added a research item
The authors of this chapter advocate for the integration of environmental justice thinking in telecoupling research. The chapter provides a succinct review of the history and conceptual foundations of environmental justice, which encompass distribution, recognition and participation issues, and it reviews the most recent empirical case studies in the telecoupling literature. The findings show that few empirical analyses of telecoupled systems have directly incorporated environmental justice in their analytical approach and those which address justice issues do so indirectly, with more focus on distribution than on participation and recognition. The chapter argues that addressing questions of recognition and participation more centrally in telecoupling research and combining both quantitative and qualitative methods can contribute to more systematic attention towards environmental justice in telecoupled systems.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added 5 research items
This book presents a comprehensive exploration of the emerging concept and framework of telecoupling and how it can help create a better understanding of land-use change in a globalised world. Land-use change is increasingly characterised by a spatial disconnect between its main environmental, socioeconomic and political drivers and the main impacts and outcomes of those changes. The authors examine how this separation of the production and consumption of land-based resources is driven by population growth, urbanisation, climate change, and biodiversity and carbon conservation efforts. Identifying and fostering more sustainable, just and equitable modes of land use and intervening in unsustainable ones thus constitute substantial, almost overwhelming challenges for science and policy. This book brings together leading scholars on land-use change and sustainability to systematically discuss the relevance of telecoupling research in addressing these challenges. The book presents an overview of the telecoupling approach, reflects on a number of the most pressing issues surrounding land-use change today and discusses the agenda for advancing understanding on sustainable land-use change through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. Cecilie Friis is a post-doctoral researcher at the IRI THESys at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. Her research focuses on land-use change, crop booms, and land grabbing in frontier regions of Southeast Asia, and she is the Co-Organiser of a Global Land Programme Working Group on Telecoupling Research towards Sustainable Transformation of Land Systems. Jonas Ø. Nielsen is Professor of Integrative Geography at the Geography Department and Research Group Leader at the IRI THESys at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. He is on the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Land Programme and the Coordinator of a Horizon 2020 funded Innovative Training Network on telecoupling.
Understanding land-use change requires attention to local contexts and global processes. In this chapter, zooming techniques and multi-sited research are presented as two qualitative approaches that can capture both aspects of change within the same research project. This chapter describes how zooming techniques and multi-sited research enable the in-depth contextual knowledge needed in qualitative research while allowing the researcher to follow processes outwards in space and backwards in time. Practical advice and examples as well as trade-offs associated with the two approaches are also presented. It is argued that qualitative research is important in telecoupling analysis, as it allows the research to ask who, what, where, and when, in order to get to the how and the why of a certain land-use event or change.
Jonas Ø Nielsen
added a project goal
The Doctoral programme COUPLED is a European wide PhD programme that unites young researchers, senior researchers and non-academic organizations and companies on topics of land-use change, and the globalization of this. Our work covers qualitative and quantitative approaches and span the globe. A major aim is to understand what drives land-use changes in order to transition towards greater sustainability in this domain. With this project we want to keep you informed about what is currently happening within our group.