Food Security and Land Use:
The Telecoupling Challenge

A new award-winning conceptual framework of telecouplings (socioeconomic and environmental interactions between coupled human and natural systems over distances)

Summary

Studies on human-nature dynamics have usually focused on a single coupled human and natural system. However, almost all coupled systems interact with other systems, including those far away.

Even though decades of drastically increased distant interactions (e.g., through international trade) may be having profound socioeconomic and environmental impacts across borders and across scales, systematic research has been lacking. Traditional international trade research has focused on socioeconomic interactions between trade partners, with some separate studies on environmental impacts. However, human-nature interactions and feedbacks at multiple scales across borders are rarely considered.

A new award-winning conceptual framework of telecouplings (socioeconomic and environmental interactions between coupled human and natural systems over distances) provides an integrated approach to address these issues systematically and simultaneously. The framework has been conceptually applied to a number of important issues, but there is a lack of quantification of the effects of telecouplings on humannature dynamics.


Broader Impacts

Understanding the complex dynamics of telecoupled systems will be indispensable to addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges (e.g., land use, greenhouse gases, and food) across scales and across borders. The innovative research will be tightly integrated with ambitious education and outreach efforts. These will include mentoring a new generation of interdisciplinary scientists, engaging a range of stakeholders, and strategically disseminating research findings in multiple outlets including the global news media and social media.

The project will also leverage the research results to develop a suite of communication training activities (e.g., boot camps) that will empower scientists to become effective science ambassadors by sharing their research stories to elevate the public’s understanding of telecoupled systems worldwide. Students and postdocs, including those we plan to recruit from underrepresented groups, will gain broad knowledge and learn important skills to become future visionary leaders and globally-engaged scholars on telecoupled systems.


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