Friis, C. & J. Østergaard Nielsen (2019): Telecoupling. Exploring Land-Use Change in a Globalised World. Palgrave Studies in Natural Resource Management. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

For more information see: Book Publication on Telecoupling – How Researchers track Land-Use Change in a Globalised World.


Articles in Journal

Bager, S.L., C. Singh & M. Persson (2022). Blockchain is not a silver bullet for supply chain sustainability. Current Research in Environmental Sustainability 4: 100163.

Bager, S.L., B. Düdder, F. Henglein, J.M. Hebert & H. Wu (2022). Event-based sustainable commodity supply chains on blockchain. Frontiers in Blockchain.

Bager, S.L. & E.F. Lambin (2020). Sustainability strategies by companies in the global coffee sector. Business Strategy and the Environment 1-16.

Bager, S., U.M. Persson & T.N.P. dos Reis (2021). Eighty-six EU policy options for reducing imported deforestation. One Earth 4: 289-306,

Bhan, M., S. Gingrich, N. Roux, J. Le Noe, T. Kastner, S. Matej, F. Schwarzmueller & K.-H. Erb (2021). Quantifying and attributing land use-induced carbon emissions to biomass consumption: A critical assessment of existing approaches. Journal of Environmental Management 286: 112228,

Boillat, S., A. Martin, T. Adams, D. Daniel, J. Llopis, E. Zepharovich, C. Oberlack, G. Sonderegger, P. Bottazzi, E. Corbera, C.I. Speranza & U. Pascual (2020) Why telecoupling research needs to account for environmental justice. Journal of Land Use Science, 15:1, 1-10.

Buchadas, A.*, S. Qin*, P. Meyfroidt & T. Kuemmerle (2022). Conservation frontiers: understanding the geographic expansion of conservation. Journal of Land Use Science. (*co-first authors)

Busck-Lumholt, E. Corbera & O. Mertz (2022). How are institutions included in Integrated Conservation and Development Projects? Developing and testing a diagnostic approach on the World Bank’s Forest and Community project in Salta, Argentina. World Development 157: 155956.

Busck-Lumholt, L.M., J. Coenen, J. Persson, O. Mertz, A. Frohn Pedersen & E. Corbera. Telecoupling as a framework to support a more nuanced understanding of causality in Land System Science. Journal of Land Use Science 17:1, 386-406.

Coenen, J., J. Newig & P. Meyfroidt (2022). Environmental governance of a Belt and Road project in Montenegro–National agency and external influences. Land Use Policy 119:106136.

Coenen, J., L.M. Glass & L. Sanderink (2021). Two degrees and the SDGs: a network analysis of the interlinkages between transnational climate actions and the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability Science.

Coenen, J., S.L. Bager, P. Meyfroidt, J. Newig & E. Challies (2020). Environmental Governance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Environmental Policy and Governance 1–15.

Corbera, E., I. Anguelovski, J. Honey-Rosés & I. Ruiz-Mallén (2020). Academia in the Time of COVID-19: Towards an Ethics of Care. Planning Theory & Practice 21:191-199.

Cotta, B., J. Coenen, E. Challies, J. Newig, A. Lenschow & A. Schilling-Vacaflor (2022). Environmental governance in globally telecoupled systems: Mapping the terrain towards an integrated research agenda. Earth System Governance 13:100142.

Fanning, A.L., D.W. O’Neill, J.Hickel & N. Roux (2021). The social shortfall and ecological overshoot of nations. Nature Sustainability 5:26-36.

Hauer, J. & J. Østergaard Nielsen (2020). Making land-use change and markets: the globallocal entanglement of producing rice in Bagré, Burkina Faso. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography Special, Issue 1: 84-100.

Kehoe, L., T.N.P. dos Reis, P. Meyfroidt, S. Bager, R. Seppelt, T. Kuemmerle, E. Berenguer, M. Clark, K. Frankel Davis, E. K.H.J. zu Ermgassen, K.N. Farrell, C. Friis, H. Haberl, T. Kastner, K.L. Murtough, U.M. Persson, A. Romero-Munoz, C. O’Connell, V.V.Schafer, M. Virah-Sawmy, Y. le Polain de Waroux & J. Kiesecker (2020). Inclusion, Transparency, and Enforcement: How the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement Fails the Sustainability Test. Commentary. One Earth 3:268-272.

Laroche, P.C.S.J., C.J.E. Schulp, T. Kastner & P.H. Verburg (2021). Assessing the contribution of mobility in the European Union to rubber expansion. Ambio 51:770-783.

Laroche, P.C.S.J., C.J.E. Schulp, T. Kastner & P.H. Verburg (2020). Telecoupled environmental impacts of current and alternative Western diets. Global Environmental Change 62:102066.

Laroche,P.C.S.J. Laroche, C.J.E. Schulp, T. Kastner & P.H. Verburg (2022). The role of holiday styles in shaping the carbon footprint of leisure travel within the European Union. Tourism Management 94:104630.

Leijten, F.*, T.N.P. dos Reis*, S. Sim, P.H. Verburg & P. Meyfroidt (2022). The influence of company sourcing patterns on the adoption and effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments in Brazil’s soy supply chain. Environmental Science and Policy 128:208-215, (*Co-first authors)

Leijten, F., S. Sim, H. King & P.H. Verburg (2021). Local deforestation spillovers induced by forest moratoria: evidence from Indonesia. Land Use Policy 109:105690.

Leijten, F., S. Sim, H. King & P.H. Verburg (2020). Which forests could be protected by corporate zero deforestation commitments? A spatial assessment. Environmental Research Letters 15:064021.

Mempel, F. & F. Bidone. Re-MEDIAting distant impacts – How Western media make sense of deforestation in different Brazilian biomes. Environmental Sociology.

Mempel, F. & E. Corbera (2021). Framing the frontier – Tracing issues related to soybean expansion in transnational public spheres. Global Environmental Change 69:102308.

Meyfroidt, M., A. de Bremond, C.M. Ryan (2022). Ten facts about land systems for sustainability. PNAS 119: 7.

Meyfroidt, P., R. Roy Chowdhury, A. de Bremond, E.C. Ellis, K.H. Erb, T. Filatova, R.D. Garrett, J.M. Grove, A. Heinimann, T. Kuemmerle, C.A. Kull, E.F. Lambin, Y. Landon, Y. le Polain de Waroux, P. Messerli, D. Müller, J.Ø. Nielsen, G.D. Peterson, V. Rodriguez García, M. Schlüter, B.L. Turner II & P.H. Verburg (2018). Middle-range theories of land system change. Global Environmental Change 53:52–67.

Munroe, D.K., M. Batistella, C. Friis, N.I. Gasparri, E. Lambin, J. Liu, P. Meyfroidt, E. Moran & J. Østergaard Nielsen (2019). Governing flows in telecoupled land systems. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 38:53-59.

Nielsen, J.Ø., A. de Bremond, R. Roy Chowdhury, C. Friis, G. Metternicht, P. Meyfroidt, D. Munroe, U. Pascual & A. Thomson (2019). Toward a normative land systems science. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 38:1-6.

Otero, I., K.N. Farrell, S. Pueyo, G. Kallis, L. Kehoe, H. Haberl, C. Plutzar, P. Hobson, J. García-Márquez, B. Rodríguez-Labajos, J.-L. Martin, K.-H. Erb, S. Schindler, J. Nielsen, T. Skorin, J. Settele, F. Essl, E. Gómez-Baggethun, L. Brotons, W. Rabitsch, F. Schneider & G. Pe’er (2020). Biodiversity policy beyond economic growth. Conservation Letters e12713

Parra Paitan, C. & P.H. Verburg (2019). Methods to assess the impacts and indirect land use change caused by telecoupled agricultural supply chains: A review. Sustainability 11:1162.

Parra-Paitan, C. & P.H. Verburg (2022). Accounting for land use changes beyond the farm-level in sustainability assessments: The impact of cocoa production. Science of The Total Environment 825:154032.

Pedersen, A.F., J. Østergaard Nielsen & C. Friis (2022). Gold, friction and resistance in a globalised land system: the case of Tanzania. Journal of Land Use Science. Ahead of print:1-20.

Pedersen, A.F., J. Ø. Nielsen, C. Friis & J. Bosse Jønsson (2021). Mineral exhaustion and its livelihood implications for artisanal and small-scale miners. Environmental Science and Policy 119:34-43,

Pedersen, A.F., J. Ø. Nielsen, F. Mempel, S. Bager, J. Bosse Jønsson & E. Corbera (2021). The ambiguity of transparency in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector of Tanzania. The Extractive Industries and Society 101004,

Persson, J.. S. Qin & J. Zähringer (2022). Patterning conservation flows: How formal and informal networks shape transnational conservation practice. Conservation and Society AOP:1-12.

Persson, J., S. Ford, A. Keophoxay, O. Mertz, J. Østergaard Nielsen, T. Vongvisouk & M. Zörner (2021). Large Differences in Livelihood Responses and Outcomes to Increased Conservation Enforcement in a Protected Area. Human Ecology 49:597-616.

Qin, S., T. Kuemmerle, P. Meyfroidt, M. Napolitano Ferreira, G.I. Gavier Pizarro, M.E. Periago, T.N.P. dos Reis, A. Romero-Muñoz, A. Yanosky (2022). The geography of international conservation interest in South American deforestation frontiers. Conservation Letters: e12859.

Qin, S., R.E. Golden Kroner, C. Cook, A.T. Tesfaw, R. Braybrook, C.M. Rodriguez, C. Poelking & M.B. Mascia (2019). Protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement as a threat to iconic protected areas. Conservation Biology 33 (6):1275-1285.

Reis, N.P. dos, V.G. de Faria, G. Russo Lopes, G. Sparovek, C. West, R. Rajão, M. Napolitano Ferreira, M.M.S. Elvira & R.S.T. do Valle (2021). Trading deforestation – why the legality of forest-risk commodities is insufficient. Environmental Research Letters 16:124025.

Reis, T.N.P. dos, P. Meyfroidt, E.K.H.J. zu Ermgassen, C. West, T. Gardner, S. Bager, S. Croft, M.J. Lathuillière & J. Godar (2020). Understanding the stickiness of commodity supply chains is key to improving their sustainability. One Earth 3(1):100-115,

Russo Lopes, G., M.G. Bastos Lima & T.N.P. dos Reis (2021): Maldevelopment revisited: Inclusiveness and social impacts of soy expansion over Brazil’s Cerrado in Matopiba. World Development 139:105316,

Roux, N. & B. Plank (2022). The misinterpretation of structure effects of the LMDI and an alternative index decomposition. MethodsX 9:101698.

Roux, N., T. Kastner, K.-H. Erb & H. Haberl (2021): Does agricultural trade reduce pressure on land ecosystems? Decomposing drivers of the embodied human appropriation of net primary production. Ecological Economics 181:106915,

Roux, N., L. Kaufmann, M. Bhan, J. Le Noe, S. Matej, P. Laroche, T. Kastner, A. Bondeau, H. Haberl & K.-H. Erb. Embodied HANPP of feed and animal products: Tracing pressure on ecosystems along trilateral livestock supply chains 1986-2013. Science of the Total Environment.

Sonderegger, G., C. Oberlack, J.C. Llopis, P.H. Verburg & A. Heinimann (2020). Telecoupling visualizations through a network lens: a systematic review. Ecology and Society 25(4):47.


Other deliverables

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 1 (flows) (pdf)

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 2 (actors) (pdf)

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 3 (distance) (pdf)

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 4 (mismatches) (pdf)

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 5 (causality) (pdf)

Report on the outcomes of Virtual Meeting Series 6 (trade-offs) (pdf)

Synthesis paper on processes coupling land systems (pdf)

Synthesis paper on different concepts of distance and mismatches (pdf)

Synthesis paper on trade-offs in telecoupled systems (pdf)

Workshop Report on typology of telecoupled land systems (pdf)

Workshop Report on emerging issues in telecoupled land systems (pdf)

Toolbox to assess, model, and govern telecoupled land systems (pdf)

Summary Report of publications in international, peer-reviewed journals and scientific presentations during COUPLED (pdf)

Policy white paper

Governing Land Use Beyond Borders

 Read the full White Paper

In today’s globalized world, trade flows criss-cross the world, and a single product can have an environmental footprint in numerous countries. Supply chains are incredibly complex, sometimes involving thousands of actors and intermediaries, from governments through to small-scale farmers. This complexity could undermine the European Union’s efforts to curb global climate change and preserve biodiversity.

COUPLED, a European research and training network coordinated by Humboldt University Berlin and funded by the European Commission, is working to understand how activities in one part of the world, such as demand for certain commodities, create impacts in other countries.
The EU relies heavily on imports, and in 2020 its 24 most important products accounted for about EUR10-billion, ranging from electronics through to clothes and rubber products. The EU has positioned itself as a global sustainability leader, but its environmental footprint extends beyond its territory and while the union has stringent local regulations, the same is not true of its trade partners.

Telecoupling is a helpful framework when looking to decipher such complex systems. The concept describes the global interconnectedness of distant land systems and its implications on the local social-economic conditions in a given place. A better understanding of telecoupled systems allows academics and officials to systematically explain what drives land-system change and the consequences of this change. The telecoupling concept emphasises the need to trace the flows, interactions, and feedbacks between two or more places where human activities impact the environment, often separated by large distances – with sometimes surprising outcomes.

The 2019 European Green Deal looks to transform the region’s economy and drastically reduce its environmental and carbon footprint. However, there is also a risk that as the EU tightens its environmental controls and promotes a carbon-neutral economy, businesses may move their production to places with less stringent controls – increasing the telecoupled impacts of EU demand. With the telecoupling concept, the EU can identify areas in which carbon leakage and the displacement of environmental harm occur. Importantly, it can gauge the social and economic effects of these flows and how it alters the behaviour of the many actors involved.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to reducing the telecoupled effects of EU demand and consumption. But in order to address its displaced environmental impact, COUPLED researchers have five policy recommendations:

  1. Apply telecoupling frameworks to assess commodities linked to high-impact environmental degradation.
  2. Ensure traceability and transparency of trade flows through appropriate monitoring.
  3. Recognise the displaced environmental impacts of trade in trade agreements.
  4. Ensure multi-stakeholder engagement and transdisciplinary research to find solutions to telecoupled impacts.
  5. Fund research into telecoupling.

The telecoupling concept allows EU policy makers to gauge the effects of their policies on sustainability and climate outcomes in other parts of the world. With this evidence, the EU is able to ensure that its strong climate and environmental action at home is not undermined through its impact in other countries

Policy Briefs

COUPLED Policy Briefs feature highlights and policy implications from our research. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the authors. Neither the COUPLED network nor the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research Executive Agency (REA) necessarily share the expressed views.

A. Frohn Pedersen: Empowering women in Tanzania’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 1, June 2021.

Full pdf

Women in Tanzania’s artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector face many challenges as they navigate in a male dominated field. At the core of these challenges is the lack of recognition and representation of women. The legal framework exacerbates this issue, as it only acknowledges license-owners in its definition of small-scale miners. Since women are rarely the license-owners, they are not included in this category. To ensure an inclusive development of the sector, it is important to promote the recognition and representation of women.

Perrine Laroche: Rubber boom and the global and local impacts of personal car use in the European Union

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 2, June 2021.

Full pdf

Car use and car-dependent lifestyles in the European Union (EU) are contributing to the rubber boom in the tropics due to tyre use. By focusing the transition towards sustainable mobility patterns on the reduction of carbon emissions, the EU is missing opportunities to prevent other environmental impacts. This is particularly true for environmental impacts occurring at distant places where the impacts are actually felt, such as the degradation of tropical ecosystems. Progress toward sustainable mobility in the EU requires cross-cutting policies that enable Europeans to live car-free.

Joel Persson: A need for bottom-up governance in Lao protected areas

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 3, June 2021.

Full pdf

Lao forests offer critical habitat for a range of locally and internationally important species. Protected areas have been the mainstay of international efforts in Lao PDR (Laos) to safeguard these. New in-depth research on Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park shows that rapid market expansion and international conservation investments are shaping the winners and losers at the frontiers of protected areas in highly uneven ways. The post-2020 global agenda on biodiversity offers an important opportunity to refocus protected areas to enhancing equitable outcomes and building on efforts to safeguard local communities’ rights. Measures should build on ongoing market processes and bottom-up institutions grounded in local realities that explicitly account for complex social differentiation.

Tiago Reis: Assessing relationship patterns in commodity supply chains and their sustainability implications

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 4, June 2021.

Full pdf

The production, consumption and trade of global agricultural commodities, such as soy, beef and palm oil, are responsible for significant global forest loss, carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. Supply chain actors, such as food processors, slaughterhouses, traders or retailers, play a crucial role in shaping land use dynamics. Recently, they have been forming coalitions to pledge sustainability goals, including zero-deforestation commitments. So far, little attention has been given to the persistence of supply chains relationships, including companies’ sourcing patterns, and how they influence these sustainability goals. We show that although more persistent supply chains may lead to more adoption of commitments, they may also increase deforestation. Therefore, supply chain sustainability initiatives need to consider sourcing patterns in their design.

N. Roux: Land use, land use change and forestry emissions: changing the EU’s accounting schemes

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 5, June 2021.

Full pdf

The European Commission (EC) has committed to increase its target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030. To implement this plan, the EC wants to amend its carbon emissions accounting rules in the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) sector (Regulation 2018/841). The Regulation aims to incentivize EU Member States to enhance their carbon sink and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the LULUCF sector. Here, we recommend a novel accounting scheme to increase the effectiveness and fairness of the Regulation 2018/841.

S. Bager, Simon & M. Persson: Three principles for the EU to reduce imported deforestation

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 6, June 2021.

Full pdf

The European Union is currently a major contributor to tropical deforestation through import of forest risk commodities such as palm oil, soybeans, cocoa, and coffee. But this can change. We have analyzed over 1,000 policy proposals for how the EU can reduce imported deforestation, finding options that have both broad support among stakeholders and are potentially impactful, such as mandatory due diligence and multi-stakeholder fora. We also identified three key principles to forge an effective EU response: (i) Implement policies based on clearly elucidated and proven theories-of-change; (ii) Use policy mixes to create synergies and increase effectiveness, (iii) Work with stakeholders in key supply-chains and regions, broadening scope over time.


Flyer – Quick Guide to COUPLED PDF


Media Coverage

Kronen-Zeitung. Ist Fleisch aus Tirol für uns die bessere Wahl? (Is meat from Tyrol the better choice for us? In German only). 01.03.2022.

BBC. No silver-bullet solutions for saving used planet. By Helen Briggs. 08.02.2022. News Article on the PNAS Paper Ten facts about land systems for sustainability (Meyfroidt et al. 2022)

European Research Executive Agency: European Year of Youth: three young MSCA researchers helping to build a brighter future for generations to come! News article. 28.01.2022. To kick-start the ‘European Year of Youth’, three young inspiring MSCA researchers were interviewed to discuss their projects and their hopes to build a brighter future through their work. Among them is our very own Claudia Parra Paitan.

Daily Coffee News. A Review of the Sustainability Efforts of 500+ Coffee Companies. By S. Bager, S. 02.12.2021.

The Guardian. No country has met welfare goals in past 30 years ‘without putting planet at risk’. By L. Elliott. 18.11.2021

Der StandardSteigender Ressourcenverbrauch, weniger soziale Gerechtigkeit (Increasing resource consumption, less social justice. In German only). By V. Mischitz. 19.11.2021.

ORF. Punkt Eins radio show. Die große Entwaldung und unser Beitrag (The Great Deforestation and Our Contribution. In German only). Nicolas Roux invited expert speaker. 16.04.2021.

The Ecologist. The EU and tropical deforestation. By S. Bager & M. Persson. 01.04.2021.

Humboldts17. Alles hängt mit allem zusammen… (Everything is connected… In German only). 09.03.2021.

HuffpostBrazil’s ‘Upside-Down’ Forest Is Facing Devastating Destruction. By Dom Phillips. 27.02.2021.

Horizon.The EU Research & Innovation Magazine. To confront climate change, we need to understand the environmental footprint of global supply chains. By S. Wild. 08.02.2021.

Related video: EU imports like cocoa and coffee have an environmental cost – but accounting for them from the start of their supply chains could help reduce impacts. Twitter, 11.02.2021.

Humboldts17.  Wie können wir Minenarbeitern einen nachhaltigen Lebensunterhalt ermöglichen? (How can we provide sustainable livelihoods for mine workers? In German only). By A. Frohn Pedersen. 27.01.2021.

Adlershof Journal. Tracing the Anthropocene. Professor of geography Jonas Østergaard Nielsen studies land use changes in an age of global interconnectedness. By N. Lessing. 04.01.2021.

BBC News Brasil. O projeto rodoviário que ameaça uma das áreas mais conservadas da Amazônia. (The road project that threatens one of the most conserved areas of Amazonia”). 06.08.2020

Université catholique de Louvain. Science Today. Commerce: quelles filières durables pour demain? (Trade: which sustainable sectors for tomorrow?) 24.07.2020.

Deutsche Welle Brazil. Desmate na Amazônia e no Cerrado está em 2% das fazendas. (Deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado is at 2% of farms). By Edison Veiga. 16.07.2020.

360° – Verden I Udvikling: Afrikas Wild West – Jagen pa det gode guld (Africa’s Wild West – The Hunt for the Good Gold. In Danish only). By A. Kidmose Jensen. 07.12.2018.

We want to understand changes of land use in a globalised economy. Because what happens on land is important for a range of sustainability indicators.
EU imports like cocoa and coffee have an environmental cost – but accounting for them from the start of their supply chains could help reduce impacts
How does International Trade of food and biomass products affect the environment, deforestation and other ecosystems?
Billions of Dollars, millions of traded tons & millions of connections: the Brazil soy supply chain. A video by Tiago Reis on his study of connections between producing municipalities, traders & consumer countries. Why do some change, why do some remain stable?
Does trade help to achieve SDGs? Or do we need different trade regulations? Nicolas has six minutes to discuss whether or not international trade in agricultural products did reduce pressure in land ecosystems. Does he pass the challenge? Look for yourself.
Meet some COUPLED members and get a short insight into our training network. It was filmed during our Summer School last July in Berlin and surroundings. Thanks to Anna Frohn Pedersen for putting it together.
Anna's film One gram of gold has been selected for the German International Ethnographic Film Festival in Göttingen (May 25-29, 2022) The film was created as part of Anna's PhD project that ethnographically explores the entanglements of local livelihoods and global consumption in the gold mining sector of Tanzania. The idea behind the project was to give the microphone to the artisanal and small-scale miners of Tanzania who are rarely represented in global discussions on gold mining. It is important for Anna to contribute to the much needed agenda of decolonising academia, and she believe that participatory research is one way to do so, giving agency to the people and places we study. Watch the TRAILER
Do you ever ask yourself where your golden jewellery was born? It might well be right here, in Tanzania. Extracting gold is what employs hundreds of thousands Tanzanians and gives them food on the table. But it comes with a price that both the people and the environment will eventually pay.

60Seconds is an urban video festival projecting selected silent short films. Anna‘s short film Gold was selected and presented in April 2020. It was also screened at the 12th Seoul Metro International Subway Film Festival (SMIFF) from 17.08 – 12.09.2021 (