SS Forum: Telecouplings for Global Sustainability

Event Type: 
Jianguo (Jack) Liu
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm
1040 Dana Building
Event Sponsor: 
Center for Sustainable Systems


The world is increasingly interconnected across distant places, not only socioeconomically but also environmentally. To understand and manage such complex interconnections, a new integrated framework of telecoupling is proposed. As an umbrella concept, telecouplings are socioeconomic and environmental interactions between multiple coupled human and natural systems (e.g., regions or countries) over distances. They occur during trade (e.g., trade of food, energy, and other products), water transfer, payments for ecosystem services, foreign investment, migration, and tourism. They also emerge when information flows, organisms disperse, species invade, and diseases spread. The framework of telecoupling builds on, integrates and goes beyond previous concepts by emphasizing reciprocal cross-scale and cross-border interactions (e.g., feedbacks). For example, it extends the concept of teleconnection (interactions between distant climate systems) by encompassing socioeconomic interactions and expands the concept of economic globalization (interactions between distant human systems) by embracing environmental interactions. Telecouplings have profound implications for global sustainability as they can transform the structure, function, pattern, process, and dynamics of coupled systems at different scales across the world. Thus, it is important to minimize negative effects while maximizing positive effects of telecouplings on global sustainability.


Jianguo (Jack) Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University

A human-environment scientist and sustainability scholar, Jianguo "Jack" Liu holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, is University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University and also serves as director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.
Liu came to MSU after completing his postdoctoral work at Harvard University. He also has been a guest professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a visiting scholar at Stanford (2001–2002), Harvard (2008) and Princeton (2009).

His broad interests include the integration of ecology with social sciences. Liu is particularly keen to connect seemingly unconnected issues, for example divorce and environmental sustainability.

Liu takes a holistic approach to addressing complex human-environmental challenges through systems integration, which means he integrates multiple disciplines such as ecology and social sciences. His work has been published in journals such as Nature and Science, and has been widely covered by the international news media. Liu has served on various international and national committees and panels. He is a past president of the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE). He also is a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science and leads the International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (

In recognition of his efforts and achievements in research, teaching, and service, Liu has received many awards, such as being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Guggenheim Fellowship Award, the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, the Distinguished Service Award from US-IALE and the Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship from the Ecological Society of America.