Socioeconomic and environmental effects of soybean production in metacoupled systems

Ramon Felipe Bicudo da Silva*, Andrés Viña, Emilio F. Moran, Yue Dou, Mateus Batistella, Jianguo Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Human–environment interactions within and across borders are now more influential than ever, posing unprecedented sustainability challenges. The framework of metacoupling (interactions within and across adjacent and distant coupled human–environment systems) provides a useful tool to evaluate them at diverse temporal and spatial scales. While most metacoupling studies have so far addressed the impacts of distant interactions (telecouplings), few have addressed the complementary and interdependent effects of the interactions within coupled systems (intracouplings) and between adjacent systems (pericouplings). Using the production and trade of a major commodity (soybean) as a demonstration, this paper empirically evaluates the complex effects on deforestation and economic growth across a globally important soybean producing region (Mato Grosso in Brazil). Although this region is influenced by a strong telecoupling process (i.e., soybean trade with national and international markets), intracouplings pose significant effects on deforestation and economic growth within focal municipalities. Furthermore, it generates pericoupling effects (e.g., deforestation) on adjacent municipalities, which precede economic benefits on adjacent systems, and may occur during and after the soybean production takes place. These results show that while economic benefits of the production of agricultural commodities for global markets tend to be localized, their environmental costs tend to be spatially widespread. As deforestation also occurred in adjacent areas beyond focal areas with economic development, this study has significant implications for sustainability in an increasingly metacoupled world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18662
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Center for Environmental Studies and Research of the State University of Campinas, Brazil, the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations and the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability as well as AgBioResearch at Michigan State University, USA, for providing support for this study. We acknowledge the funding support from the National Science Foundation, Grant Numbers 1531086 and 1924111. We also thank FAPESP, which also provided support through the processes 14/50628-9, 15/25892-7, and 18/08200-2. We are very grateful to MapBiomas who generated the land-use and and-cover data used in this paper (Project MapBiomas—Collection v.4.1 of Brazilian Land Cover & Use Map Series, accessed on June 10, 2020 through the link: None of these funding sources are to be held responsible for the opinions and views expressed herein. They are the sole responsibility of the authors. We are very thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions that improved the manuscript’s clarity.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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