The debate about Sustainable Development Goals following the United Nations “Rio+20” reveals the difficulty of simultaneously addressing social and economic development challenges and the degradation of Earth’s life support systems. Land systems in the humid tropics illustrate these challenges prominently. Local people’s land use strategies are facing competition from large-scale land acquisition, logging etc., but also biodiversity conservation. Remote decision-makers reshape flows of ecosystem services to their benefit, whereas the consequences hardly reach them. Land change scientists have recently conceptualized this phenomenon under the term “telecoupling”. Our research project within the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme) pursues the overall goal of devising and testing innovative strategies and institutional arrangements for securing ecosystem service flows and human well-being in and between telecoupled landscapes at study sites in Laos, Myanmar, and Madagascar.
How Context Affects Transdisciplinary Research
Transdisciplinary research (TDR) helps fostering people's capabilities to realize sustainability transformations. Researchers from the global North have largely coined its principles and methods, and their contextual conditions are reflected in their work. Yet TDR is often applied in the global South, where the contexts may be very different. Based on the analysis of six case studies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the authors show that for this reason, implementing TDR can be a challenging endeavour. They make a stand for pragmatic adaptations as well as more fundamental reflection on underlying epistemological concepts around what it means to conduct "good science".