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Urban land teleconnections

Together with a group of international scholars I’ve engaged in research that introduces the notion of urban land teleconnections as a conceptual framework that explicitly links land changes to underlying urbanization dynamics.

In a recent publication in PNAS (2012) we illustrated how three key themes that are currently addressed separately in the urban sustainability and land change literatures can lead to incorrect conclusions and misleading results when they are not examined jointly: the traditional system of land classification that is based on discrete categories and reinforces the false idea of a rural–urban dichotomy; the spatial quantification of land change that is based on place-based relationships, ignoring the connections between distant places, especially between urban functions and rural land uses; and the implicit assumptions about path dependency and sequential land changes that underlie current conceptualizations of land transitions. We then examined several environmental “grand challenges” and discuss how urban land teleconnections could help research communities frame scientific inquiries. Finally, we pointed to existing analytical approaches that can be used to advance development and application of the concept.