Telecoupling as a framework to support a more nuanced understanding of causality in land system science

Louise Marie Busck-Lumholt*, Johanna Coenen, Joel Persson, Anna Frohn Pedersen, Ole Mertz, Esteve Corbera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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This article illustrates the potential of the telecoupling framework to improve causal attribution in land system science (LSS). We shed light on the distinct analytical approaches that have characterized telecoupling research to date, how these can contribute to LSS with new insights, and whether such insights can improve causal attribution. By reviewing 45 empirical telecoupling studies, we firstly demonstrate how telecoupling is applied in a broad variety of ways within LSS and across different disciplines and research topics, albeit with qualitative data and assessments being underrepresented. Secondly, we show that telecoupling is clearer in its contribution to causal attribution when applied explicitly in framework integration or empirical application, rather than when it is included more indirectly as a narrative. Finally, we argue that telecoupling can complement existing LSS theory with a flexible and holistic approach to dealing with the uncertainties and complexities related to attributing causality in a globalized world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-406
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Land Use Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • causality
  • land system science
  • social-ecological systems
  • Telecoupling


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