Understanding conservation telecouplings

PhD fellow: Siyu Qin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany)

About me

Before COUPLED, I was working at Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science as a researcher and project manager. My work involved research, technical assistance, and capacity building to advance the understanding and governing of Protected Area Downgrading Downsizing and Degazettement (PADDD) and conservation beyond protected areas. Through those projects, I had the opportunity to explore the history and local context of conservation interventions and policies in the Amazon and other tropical countries. I also interned at WWF-US on land use scenario development for ecosystem services modeling, right after I earned my Master of Environmental Management from Duke University in 2015.

The past three years on international conservation and area-based approaches naturally prepared me and led me to the COUPLED project “Understanding Conservation Coupling.” I am intrigued by the spatial/social context as well as the bargaining process leading to the adoption and abandonment of conservation interventions, and how international funding and discussions influence such decisions. Specifically, I find it exciting to (re)connect conservation research with land system science and sustainability science to explore how to balance human resource use and the protection of nature. My project will combine place-based approach with network analysis to link the flows of information and funding with conserved lands and outcomes.

My research will provide information for better decisions on effective and just conservation in dynamic landscapes with multiple stakeholders, in a telecoupled world.


Land use is the number one driver of the global extinction crisis. Understanding how land use affects biodiversity, what the trade-offs between land use and conservation are, and which conservation measures effectively mitigate biodiversity loss is therefore important. Conservation initiatives and funding often come to regions in need of conservation from external places, both within countries and beyond, e.g., via large-scale international conservation organizations or payment for ecosystem services schemes. This forges conservation telecouplings.

This research project will:

  • Map conservation lands (including public and private reserves, indigenous areas, ecosystem services areas) and associated conservation actors for the South American cattle/soybean deforestation frontiers (Amazonia, Gran Chaco, Cerrado).
  • Quantify how changes in the networks of capital and information that link actors in Europe and elsewhere to these conservation landscapes relate to changes in the extent and status of conservation lands.
  • Compile indicators on deforestation, protected area effectiveness, and land prices to evaluate how this affects competition between conservation and other land uses in Europe and South America’s arc of deforestation.

In doing so, the research project will create a basic understanding of telecouplings activated through conservation, develop tools to link place-based and network-based analyses, and gain insights on how conservation organizations and policy makers can avoid unwanted outcomes and spill-over effects.

Principal Supervisor: Tobias Kuemmerle (Humboldt University Berlin, Geography Department & IRI THESys)


Siyu Qin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Geography Department
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany