COUPLED: Operationalising Telecouplings for Solving Sustainability Challenges for Land Use

"Human consumption of food and agricultural products has a significant impact on the environment and the societies in the regions where they are produced. Given Europe’s large and growing land-use footprint abroad, Europe has a special responsibility to develop concepts and tools needed to achieve sustainability in an interconnected world. Different sectors, consumers, businesses and politicians are increasingly demanding more environmental and social sustainable land-use both inside and outside Europe.

Yet, there is increasing recognition of the limitations of current research approaches to adequately understand and address the increasing complexity of land system dynamics, which are often characterised by strong non-linearity, feedback mechanisms, and local contexts, and where places of production, trade, and consumption of land-based products are increasingly separated. Land systems are increasingly coupled across large distances via flows of biomass, capital, information and regulations. Given that distal couplings are often key in shaping how land is used, a new generation of scientists and entrepreneurs is needed.

A team of researchers, coordinated by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, has developed a European training network in order to better integrate research, innovation and social responsibility framed around the concept of telecoupling. COUPLED will train Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) capable of:

  • understanding processes and actors that influence land-use in an increasingly interconnected world
  • considering distant, unexpected feedbacks and spillovers and to account for their social and environmental impact
  • fostering new and enhanced governance measures that can shape land-use couplings to deliver more sustainable outcomes of land use decisions"

Three COUPLED ESRs will do their PhD research at the IVM Environmental Geography group. Claudia Parra Paitan and Perrine Laroche are stationed at the IVM. 

Claudia, supervised by Peter Verburg, "aims to develop more comprehensive assessments of the telecoupled indirect, distant and multi-scale land use impacts of global agricultural commodity chains". 

Perrine, supervised by Nynke Schulp, "aims to advance knowledge about the impacts that people’s attitudes may have on ecological and socioeconomic systems in a telecoupled context". 

Additionally, Floris Leijten does his PhD research at Unilever U.K., with Peter Verburg as supervisor and promotor. Floris aims to "provide new insights on how effective companies have been in reducing deforestation from their supply chains and how the future of our tropical rainforests may unfold, depending on different policy scenarios and different efforts made by the corporate world".

For more information, please visit the project website or contact Peter Verburg.

Coupled graph