Land use is essential for human well-being but also the greatest threat to biodiversity globally. With increasing globalization, the places where land-use products are consumed (e.g., Europe), and the places where these products are produced (e.g., South America or Southeast Asia) are increasingly far from each other. Land-use decisions, and associated threats to biodiversity, thus ever more depend on distant rather than local drivers, and preventing displacement of environmental impact is emerging as a key issue for conservation (1-3). Similarly, conservation efforts increasingly are driven by distant actors and foreign demand: for example, conservation funding flows into deforestation frontiers, or consumer demand for environmentally friendly products causes companies to aim for more sustainable supply chains. Understanding the conservation challenges and the opportunities that such distal connections bring about is therefore crucial.
The recently developed concept of “telecouplings” combines geographic research, network analysis and systems theory to explore the interrelationship between actors, drivers, and feedbacks of land-use change over long distances (4, 5). This allows to link the impact of agriculture and forestry in remote areas with consumption patterns elsewhere, to understand and prevent conservation pitfalls, such as leakage (i.e. displacement of threats elsewhere due to local conservation efforts), and to identify effective strategies to effectively govern telecoupled systems. This symposium will bring together researchers from land system science and conservation science to assess the usefulness of the telecouplings framework for conservation research and practice.
Specifically, the symposium will explore the following overarching questions:
1. Which flows (e.g., commodities, funds, information) between distant regions are associated with local threats to biodiversity and which actors establish and govern these flows?
2. Which types of conservation actors and conservation strategies activate ‘conservation telecouplings’?
3. How can conservation organisations and policy makers avoid unwanted outcomes related to distal connections?
4. What are effective indicators to evaluate conservation efforts in telecoupled systems?
1. P. Meyfroidt, T. K. Rudel, E. F. Lambin, Proceedings of the National Acadademy of Sciences 107, 20917 (2010).
2. T. Kastner, K.-H. Erb, S. Nonhebel, Global Environmental Change 21, 947 (2011).
3. M. Lenzen et al., Nature 486, 109 (2012).
4. C. Friis et al., Journal of Land Use Science 11, 131 (2016).
5. J. Liu et al., Science 347, (2015).