Methods to assess the impacts and indirect land use change caused by telecoupled agricultural supply chains: A review

Claudia Parra Paitan*, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The increasing international trade of agricultural products has contributed to a larger diversity of food at low prices and represents an important economic value. However, such trade can also cause social, environmental and economic impacts beyond the limits of the countries directly involved in the exchange. Agricultural systems are telecoupled because the impacts caused by trade can generate important feedback loops, spillovers, rebound effects, time lags and non-linearities across multiple geographical and temporal scales that make these impacts more difficult to identify and mitigate. We make a comparative review of current impact assessment methods to analyze their suitability to assess the impacts of telecoupled agricultural supply chains. Given the large impacts caused by agricultural production on land systems, we focus on the capacity of methods to account for and spatially allocate direct and indirect land use change. Our analysis identifies trade-offs between methods with respect to the elements of the telecoupled system they address. Hybrid methods are a promising field to navigate these trade-offs. Knowledge gaps in assessing indirect land use change should be overcome in order to improve the accuracy of assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1162
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2019


  • Agricultural commodities
  • Food systems
  • Impact assessment
  • Indirect land use change
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Supply chain
  • Sustainability
  • Telecoupling


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