Telecoupling at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Telecoupling at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
  • The AGU Fall Meeting, the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world, is Dec. 12-16, 2016, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. At the meeting, the telecoupling framework is being applied to broad span of global issues:




GC41E: Telecoupling Framework as an Integrated Platform to Capture, Study, and Manage Complexity in a Changing World

8 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15

Primary convener - Falk Huettmann, University of Alaska;  convener - Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University; chairs: Huettmann and Liu


GC41E-1125: Applying Telecoupling Framework for Urban Water Sustainability Research and Management

Urban areas, especially megacities (those with populations greater than 10 million), are hotspots of global water use and thus face intense water management challenges. Urban areas are influenced by local interactions between human and natural systems and also interact with distant systems through flows of water, food, energy, people, information, and capital. However, analyses of water sustainability and the management of water flows in urban areas are often fragmented. There is a strong need for applying integrated frameworks to systematically analyze urban water dynamics and factors influencing these dynamics. Here, we apply the framework of telecoupling (socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances) to analyze urban water issues, using Beijing as a demonstration city. Beijing exemplifies the global water sustainability challenge for urban settings. Like many other cities, Beijing has experienced drastic reductions in quantity and quality of both surface water and groundwater over the past several decades; it relies on the import of real and virtual water from sending systems to meet its demand for clean water, and releases polluted water to other systems (spillover systems). The integrated framework presented here demonstrates the importance of considering socioeconomic and environmental interactions across telecoupled human and natural systems, which include not only Beijing (the water receiving system), but also water sending systems and spillover systems. This framework helps integrate important components of local and distant human-nature interactions and incorporates a wide range of local couplings and telecouplings that affect water dynamics, which in turn generate significant socioeconomic and environmental consequences including feedback effects. The application of the framework to Beijing reveals many research gaps and management needs. This study also provides a foundation to apply the telecoupling framework to better understand and manage water sustainability in other cities around the world.

Authors: Wu Yang1, David W Hyndman2, Julie A Winkler2, Andrés Viña2, Jillian Deines3, Frank Lupi2, Lifeng Luo4, Yunkai Li5, Bruno Basso6, Chunmiao Zheng7, Dongchun Ma8, Shuxin Li2, Xiao Liu2, Hua Zheng9, Guoliang Cao7, Qingyi Meng8, Zhiyun Ouyang9 and Jianguo Liu.2 

(1)Zhejiang University (2)Michigan State University (3)Michigan State University, Geological Sciences (4)Michigan State University, Department of Geography (5)China Agriculture University, Beijing, China, (6)Michigan State University, Earth and Environmental Sciences (7)Peking University, Center for Water Research (8)Beijing Hydraulic Research Institute (9)Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences


GC41E-1126: Effects of Telecoupling on Global Vegetation Dynamics

With the ever increasing trend in telecoupling processes, such as international trade, all countries around the world are becoming more interdependent. However, the effects of this growing interdependence on vegetation (e.g., shifts in the geographic extent and distribution) remain unknown even though vegetation dynamics are crucially important for food production, carbon sequestration, provision of other ecosystem services, and biodiversity conservation. In this study we evaluate the effects of international trade on the spatio-temporal trajectories of vegetation at national and global scales, using vegetation index imagery collected over more than three decades by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite sensor series together with concurrent national and international data on international trade (and its associated movement of people, goods, services and information). The spatio-temporal trajectories of vegetation are obtained using the scale of fluctuation technique, which is based on the decomposition of the AVHRR image time series to obtain information on its spatial dependence structure over time. Similar to the correlation length, the scale of fluctuation corresponds to the range over which fluctuations in the vegetation index are spatially correlated. Results indicate that global vegetation has changed drastically over the last three decades. These changes are not uniform across space, with hotspots in active trading countries. This study not only has direct implications for understanding global vegetation dynamics, but also sheds important insights on the complexity of human-nature interactions across telecoupled systems.

Authors: Andrés Viña and Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University


GC41E-1130: Quantifying multiple telecouplings using an integrated suite of spatially-explicit tools

Telecoupling is an interdisciplinary research umbrella concept that enables natural and social scientists to understand and generate information for managing how humans and nature can sustainably coexist worldwide. To systematically study telecoupling, it is essential to build a comprehensive set of spatially-explicit tools for describing and quantifying multiple reciprocal socioeconomic and environmental interactions between a focal area and other areas. Here we introduce the Telecoupling Toolbox, a new free and open-source set of tools developed to map and identify the five major interrelated components of the telecoupling framework: systems, flows, agents, causes, and effects. The modular design of the toolbox allows the integration of existing tools and software (e.g. InVEST) to assess synergies and tradeoffs associated with policies and other local to global interventions. We show applications of the toolbox using a number of representative studies that address a variety of scientific and management issues related to telecouplings throughout the world. The results suggest that the toolbox can thoroughly map and quantify multiple telecouplings under various contexts while providing users with an easy-to-use interface. It provides a powerful platform to address globally important issues, such as land use and land cover change, species invasion, migration, flows of ecosystem services, and international trade of goods and products.

Authors: Francesco Tonini and Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University


GC41E-1131: Current frontiers and future directions of telecoupling research

The world has been increasingly interconnected over long distances though processes such as international trade, migration, telecommunication, and disease spread. However, previous studies often focused on socioeconomic or environmental issues of distant processes. While these studies have generated useful information for individual disciplines, integrating socioeconomic and environmental information is essential for holistic understanding of complex global challenges and unbiased decision making to address the challenges. To advance integrated research, the framework of telecoupling (socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances) has been developed to explicitly address both socioeconomic and environmental issues simultaneously. Although the framework is relatively new, it has already been applied to tackle a variety of globally important issues, such as food security, water resources, energy sustainability, land use, international trade (e.g., food, forest products, energy, wildlife, industrial products), species invasion, investment, ecosystem services, conservation, information dissemination, and tourism. These applications have identified many important research gaps (e.g. spillover systems) and hidden linkages (e.g. feedbacks) among distant areas of the world with profound implications for sustainable development, ecosystem health, and human well-being. While working with telecoupling presents more challenges than focusing only on disciplinary issues, support from funding agencies has helped accelerate research on telecoupling and more efforts are being aimed at framework quantification and operationalization. The presenter will provide an overview of the current frontiers, discuss future research directions, and highlight emerging opportunities and challenges in telecoupling research and governance.

Author: Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University


GC41E-1129: Global sand trade is paving the way for a tragedy of the sand commons

In the first 40 years of the 21st century, planet Earth is highly likely to experience more urban land expansion than in all of history, an increase in transportation infrastructure by more than a third, and a great variety of land reclamation projects. While scientists are beginning to quantify the deep imprint of human infrastructure on biodiversity at large scales, its off-site impacts and linkages to sand mining and trade have been largely ignored. Sand is the most widely used building material in the world. With an ever-increasing demand for this resource, sand is being extracted at rates that far exceed its replenishment, and is becoming increasingly scarce. This has already led to conflicts around the world and will likely lead to a “tragedy of the sand commons” if sustainable sand mining and trade cannot be achieved.

We investigate the environmental and socioeconomic interactions over large distances (telecouplings) of infrastructure development and sand mining and trade across diverse systems through transdisciplinary research and the recently proposed telecoupling framework. Our research is generating a thorough understanding of the telecouplings driven by an increasing demand for sand. In particular, we address three main research questions: 1) Where are the conflicts related to sand mining occurring?; 2) What are the major “sending” and “receiving” systems of sand?; and 3) What are the main components (e.g. causes, effects, agents, etc.) of telecoupled systems involving sand mining and trade?

Our results highlight the role of global sand trade as a driver of environmental degradation that threatens the integrity of natural systems and their capacity to deliver key ecosystem services. In addition, infrastructure development and sand mining and trade have important implications for other sustainability challenges such as over-fishing and global warming. This knowledge will help to identify opportunities and tools to better promote a more sustainable use of sand, ultimately helping avoid a “tragedy of the sand commons”. 

Authors: Aurora Torres Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Jodi Brandt, Boise State University,, Kristen Lear, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University


GC41E-1128: A first telecoupling analysis of multi-species poaching trade in Nepal: When outside demands seek and distribute a local resource in times of globalization

Asia remains one of the last wilderness resources in the world. It’s widely praised for those resources and they are in a global appreciation and demand. Considering open borders, many of them virtually uncontrollable in Asia, and globalization in full swing, precious local resources become available to a global audience without much constraint though. Nepal and its unique biodiversity presents us with one of such cases while hard data remain elusive.

Here we present a first telecoupling analysis based on poaching and crime statistics presented in the public print national daily newspapers (Kantipur and Gorkhapatra) in Nepal. This review highlights a few high-profile species (timber: Sal Shorea robusta , Sissoo Dalbergia sissoo, PinePinus species; aromatic and medicinal plants: Red Sandal Wood Santalum album, Orchid Orchid species, Paris Paris polyphylla, JatamashiNardostachys grandiflora, Kutki Picrorhyza scrophulariiflora and wildlife: Royal Bengal Tiger Panthera tigris tigris, Rhino Rhinoceros unicornis, Pangolin Manis species, Common Leopard Panthera pardus, Red Panda Ailurus fulgens, Snow Leopard Panthera uncia) in Nepal, traded out directly and illegally to India and China. We provide a wider perspective regarding sending, receiving and spill-over agents. Arguably, the western world as the spill-over agent set up a globalization framework that allows for items, virtually any items, to be shipped across borders, e.g. done on foot, by car or plane. It further allows to create and satisfy a demand by the receiver (=nations in wider Asia), and a system that circumvents the legal structure in the sending location (=Nepal and its biodiversity hotspots and wilderness). We extend the traditional telecoupling analysis with a flow analysis of money, remittance payments and banking networks.

This research describes for the first time such a system which is by now essentially found worldwide, how it operates, what devastating impacts it leaves behind on landscapes, and how to resolve it for betterment.

Authors: Ganga Ram Regmi, Rinzin P. Lama and Ganesh Puri, Global Primate Network; Falk Huettmann, University of Alaska

GC41E-1133: Telecoupled governance of land use change: Sustainable palm oil conservation benefits limited by preferential certification

Dozens of trans-national corporations have made public commitments to purchase only zero-deforestation palm oil, a commodity responsible for substantial tropical forest loss. Eco-certification is a basic requirement of most such forest-related procurement policies, and >20% of palm oil was certified in 2015.While the impact of certification on deforestation in oil palm plantations has never been tested, such evaluation is critical to inform improvements of voluntary sustainability initiatives. Here, we use a new, comprehensive data set of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified and non-certified oil palm plantation boundaries (191,561 km2) in Indonesia, the leading global producer of palm oil to generate robust spatio-temporal estimates of certification’s impact on deforestation and fires from 2000-2014. We find that certification reduced forest cover loss embodied in RSPO certified palm oil through two mechanisms. Certification had a significant protective effect, which lowered plantation deforestation rates by 29%.However, due to preferential certification of plantations developed before 2000, little forest was available for protection; forest area conserved totaled 56±4.9 km2. Our models suggest that increased adoption of RSPO certification may reduce the ability of palm oil companies to selectively certify previously cleared regions, and consequently strengthen the role of certification in protecting the tropical forests at greatest risk from agricultural encroachment. We reflect upon the complex interactions between traditional government policies, and emerging market-based governance structures in this telecoupled system.

Robert Heilmayr1, Kimberly M. Carlson2, Holly Gibbs3, Praveen Noojipady4, David Burns5, Douglas C Morton6, Nathalie Walker5, Gary Paoli7 and Claire Kremen8 (1)University of California Santa Barbara, (2)University of Hawaii at Manoa (3)University of Wisconsin Madison, (4)University of Maryland (5)National Wildlife Federation Reston (6)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (7)Daemeter Consulting (8)University of California Berkeley


GC41E-1132: Using Spatial Subsidies to Account for Telecoupling in the Ecosystem Services of Transboundary Migratory Species in North America

In complex coupled natural-human systems, drivers of change in one location can have profound effects on human well-being in distant locations, often across international borders. While the conceptual framework of telecoupling describes these interactions across space, the ability to quantify feedbacks between ecosystem change in one area and societal benefits in other areas requires quantitative analytical approaches. We use a new approach—spatial subsidies—to operationalize the concept of telecoupling by measuring the degree to which a migratory species’ ability to provide services in one location depends on habitat in another location. Spatial subsidies can be use identify critical features of telecoupled systems such as sending and receiving areas and to measure the strength of coupling between areas. We present spatial subsidies analyses for the telecoupled natural-human systems of three North American migratory species: Monarch butterflies, Mexican free-tailed bats and Northern Pintails (a dabbling duck). Spatial subsidies and the telecoupling conceptual framework have potential to be the foundation for new policies related to migratory species, such as the strategic direction of Duck Stamp revenues and the development of similar programs for other migratory species.

Authors: Laura Lopez-Hoffman1, Darius J Semmens2, Jay Diffendorfer2 and Wayne Thogmartin2, (1)University of Arizona (2)US Geological Survey


GC41E-1127 A model-based telecoupling analysis for the Patagonian shelf: a new suggested template on how to study global seabirds-fisheries interactions for sustainability

The Southwest Atlantic Ocean, and the extended Patagonian shelf in particular, presents us with a very complex ecosystem of global relevance for food security and global peace. It is a highly productive area and it maintains a great diversity and abundance of seabird species. Fisheries have been identified as a main stressor for the marine ecosystems and as one of the main causes of seabird population declines. Using the framework of telecoupling - a sophisticated description of natural and socioeconomic interactions over large distances - here we present a fresh holistic look at the dynamic fisheries and (endangered) seabird interactions for the Patagonian shelf. While data are sparse, we employ machine learning-based predictions for a more holistic overview. We found that these waters of the Patagonian Shelf are significantly affected by many nations and outside players. We found that the input, output and spill-over of the Patagonian shelf ecosystem are distributed virtually all over the globe. In addition, we also found ‘losers’ (=nations and their citizens that are left out entirely from this global resource and its governance). Our findings are based on best-available public trade and fish harvest analysis for this region, linked with predictive modeling (machine learning and geographic information systems GIS) to generalize for nine seabird species. We conveniently extend this analysis with a perspective from the financial sector and policy that enables the Patagonian fisheries as international investment and development projects. As increasingly recognized elsewhere, we believe that telecoupling can serve as a new but rather sophisticated study template highlighting wider complexities, bottlenecks and sensitivities for a vastly improved conservation research on oceans and global sustainability questions.

Authors: Falk Huettmann, University of Alaska and Andrea Raya Rey, Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego

GC42B-02: Drought Impacts to Water Footprints and Virtual Water Transfers of the Central Valley of California

10:35 - 10:50 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15

The Central Valley of California is one of the most productive agricultural locations in the world, which is made possible by a complex and vast irrigation system. Beginning in 2012, California endured one of the worst droughts in its history. Local impacts of the drought have been evaluated, but it is not yet well understood how the drought reverberated through the global food system. Here, we quantify drought impacts to the water footprint (WF) of agricultural production and virtual water transfers (VWT) of the Central Valley of California. To do this, we utilize high spatial, temporal, and water source resolution datasets and a crop model from pre-drought conditions (2011) through three years of exceptional drought (2012-2014). Over the course of the drought, there was a 0.6% increase (0.128 x 109 m3) in total WF. In particular, the groundwater WF increased from 6.00 x 109 m3 in 2011 to 11.61 x 109 m3 in 2014, predominantly in the Tulare Basin. However, production and food transfer declines led total VWT to decrease by 0.7% (0.097 x 109 m3). From 2011 to 2014, groundwater VWT increased by 3.19 x 109 m3, partially offsetting the 0.71 x 109 m3 reduction in green VWT and the 2.58 x 109 m3 decrease in surface VWT. During the drought, global consumers increased their reliance on the already over-exploited Central Valley Aquifer by 93.4% (5.61 x 109 m3). These results indicate that drought shocks may strengthen the telecoupling between unsustainable groundwater withdrawals and distant consumers of groundwater-intensive agricultural commodities.

Authors: Landon Marston and Megan Konar, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign