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Telecoupling Toolbox: spatially explicit tools for studying telecoupled human and natural systems

Francesco Tonini, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, MI, USA
Jianguo Liu, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, MI, USA


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Telecoupling is a novel interdisciplinary umbrella concept that enables natural and social scientists to understand and generate information for managing how humans and nature can sustainably coexist worldwide. The telecoupling framework gains its distinction by enabling researchers to dive deeply into systemic complexities, even if systems are far away from each other. It is also ambitious in its aim to meet challenges unencumbered by disciplines. To understand the forces affecting sustainability across local to global scales, it is essential to build a comprehensive set of spatially explicit tools for describing and quantifying multiple reciprocal socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. We introduce the Telecoupling Toolbox, the first 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 to assess synergies and trade-offs associated with policies and other local to global interventions. We show applications of the toolbox by using two representative telecoupling case studies that address a variety of socioeconomic and environmental issues. The results suggest that the toolbox can systematically map and quantify multiple telecouplings under various contexts while providing users with an easy-to-use interface. It is our hope that the innovative, free, and open-source toolbox can provide a useful platform to address globally important issues, such as land use and land cover change, species invasion, migration, flows of ecosystem services, and trade of goods and products.

Key words

CHANS; coupled human–natural systems; cross-scale interactions; decision-support tools; environmental interactions; human–environment interactions; socioeconomic interactions; spatially explicit tools; telecoupling; telecoupling framework

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087