Session 40: Urban land teleconnections:
From concept to implementation


Session Abstract

Land change and urbanization are significant components of global environmental change. The emerging conceptual framework of 'urban land teleconnections' (ULT) sheds further light in their connection by examining land changes by the underlying processes of urbanization. ULT is a concept that describes the distal flows and connections of people, economic goods and services and land use change processes that drive and respond to urbanization (Seto et al., 2012). The concept hypothesizes changing spatio-temporal relationships of urban actions and decision making and global impacts.

Therefore, the conceptual framework envisions transformative changes in i) the traditional system of land classification that is based on discrete categories and reinforces the false idea of a rural-urban dichotomy; ii) the spatial quantification of land change that ignores the connections between distant places, especially between urban functions and rural land uses; and, iii) the implicit assumptions that emphasize path dependency and sequential land changes in land transitions.

For these transformative changes to occur, there is a need for both theoretical and analytical advances. Empirical discussion is necessary in terms of: Does it capture the global networking and impact of cities in a new and understandable way? Does it help to explain driver-pressure-impact chains around the globe? Does it help to better foresee consequences of global urbanization across the globe? The direct and indirect land-use changes are critical in the ULT framework whereby land-use change at a specific location to meet a co-located demand (direct land-use change) leads to a cascade of induced land-use changes elsewhere (indirect land-use change).

The objective of this session was twofold: to provide a state of the knowledge on how and where urbanization is driving land change, and to assess theoretical and analytical approaches that could operationalize the concept of ULT. 

Keywords: indirect impacts, consumption, urban metabolism, migration, material flow trade


Key Discussion Points

  • Urban teleconnections can help better define ‘urban’ and ‘urban sustainability’, which helps set better sustainability goals and enhances the understanding of urban complexity to policymakers.
  • The teleconnections framework can be expanded and further developed by carrying out systematic reviews of literature from seemingly disparate fields such as political ecology, industrial ecology, industrial engineering (through material flows, production and consumption, nodes, life cycle analysis, urban metabolism) and economic geography.
  • Increases in information and knowledge can alter existing networks of connections and create new ones, presumably leading to more complex networked connections, e.g., the introduction of the internet; knowledge gained by younger generations and introduced to older generations.
  • Pushback on the urban teleconnections framework has mainly focused on whether or not it is something new or simply a recycled concept.
  • The genesis of the urban teleconnections framework resulted from a workshop by the Global Land Project and the Urbanization and Global Environment Change Project to rethink the relationship between land change and urbanization, to re-conceptualize land use and to include issues of justice in an overall land use framework.
  • Further knowledge gaps and needs include:
    • How can we use urban teleconnections to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? 
    • What is the primary goal of urban teleconnections research?  What do we want this framework to accomplish?  Do teleconnections have any potential policy impacts?  Who is the client for the framework and information generated through the implementation of this framework?
    • What are the general patterns of teleconnections across space and how do these patterns change over time?
    • How can urban teleconnections include an explicitly human component, i.e., how can we incorporate calorie tracking, nutrition, happiness and public health into an urban teleconnections framework?  How do we quantify social aspects of urban teleconnections?



Michail Fragkias, Boise State University, Boise, ID, USA

Burak Güneralp, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Dagmar Haase, HU Berlin and UFZ Leipzig, Berlin, Leipzig, Germany



Alisson Barbieri, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Presentation Title: Population mobility, livelihoods and urbanization in the Brazilian Amazon

Stephen Leisz, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Presentation Title: Road development, rural and urban land-cover/use changes and urban expansion

Burak Güneralp, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Presentation Title: Four manifestations of urban land teleconnections


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