Spill-over effects of demands for certified tropical products in Europe

PhD fellow: Sarah Katharina Mayr

University of Copenhagen

About me

I am an agricultural economist with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Bonn and a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Humboldt-Universität Berlin. My research interests lie in sustainable agriculture, commodity value chains and livelihoods as well as in biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Before joining COUPLED, I worked as research fellow at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin where I was engaged in two research projects dealing with forest conservation and sustainable options for the restoration and utilization of degraded tropical land in Indonesia and Brazil.

Especially with regard to an increasingly interconnected world, sustainable land management as well as sustainable value chains to ensure the protection of forests as carbon sinks, natural ecosystems and habitats are major challenges, which I would like to contribute to. Considering this, I am looking forward to pursue my PhD in the appealing research environment provided by the combination of excellent institutes and researchers in COUPLED. Moreover, I see the group of 15 PhD students with different backgrounds, experiences and skills as a major incentive and benefit of such an European Training Network.

As an agricultural commodity that is literally everywhere, in products as well as in discourses involving stakeholders at all levels, palm oil has already caught my interest many years ago. While the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in tropical countries has brought significant benefit and profits to the countries’ economies and to companies and corporations, the oil palm boom also comes at high negative external costs, particularly as negative ecological and social consequences. My PhD project focuses on the very complex and globalized palm oil network and on exploring indirect and unexpected (spill-over) impacts of palm oil certification. The objective is to understand flows and institutions linking actors at all levels to processes and spatial outcomes and, on that basis, to actually attribute impacts to drivers in telecoupled palm oil systems.

My PhD project focuses on the very complex and globalized palm oil network and on exploring indirect and unexpected (spill-over) impacts of palm oil certification.

Topic

The objective of this PhD is to understand how certification of palm oil affects deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. By studying the certified palm oil trade link between EU and Southeast Asia and the uncertified palm oil link between Russia and Southeast Asia, the project will evaluate whether certification may have unexpected and indirect effects across the complex and globalised commodity networks. Such effects may lead to the strengthening or even expansion of systems that are considered unsustainable (e.g. involving clearing of conservation-value forests, degrading management practices or land grabbing) and hence undermine the efforts made in terms of sustainability governance.

The research will apply field surveys, spatial analyses and network analyses to understand flows and institutions linking actors at all levels to processes and spatial outcomes. On that basis, tools and approaches will be developed and evaluated allowing to assess the impacts of certification on telecoupled systems. The research will lead to:

  • Creation of knowledge on how telecoupling processes affect the environmental outcome of certification interventions and on how unwanted outcomes may be avoided,
  • Development of new approaches that integrate place-based data-sets of a multidisciplinary nature with network analyses, and
  • Development of methodologies to attribute impacts to drivers in telecoupled land use systems.

Principal Supervisor: Thilde Bech Bruun (University of Copenhagen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management)

Contact

Sarah Katharina Mayr

University of Copenhagen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
skm@ign.ku.dk
 Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 København K, Denmark