GLP News

Global shocks, cascading disruptions, and (re-) connections: viewing the COVID-19 pandemic as concurrent natural experiments to understand land system dynamics

Related GLP Member: María Piquer-Rodríguez, Cecilie Friis, Ntsiva Andriatsitohaina, Sébastien Boillat, Chiara Cortinovis, Davide Geneletti, Maria Jose Ibarrola-Rivas, Lisa Kelley, Jorge C. Llopis, Elizabeth Mack, Sofía Nanni, Dr. Julie Zähringer, Geoff Henebry

Abstract

Context

For nearly three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted human well-being and livelihoods, communities, and economies in myriad ways with consequences for social-ecological systems across the planet. The pandemic represents a global shock in multiple dimensions that has already, and is likely to continue to have, far-reaching effects on land systems and on those depending on them for their livelihoods.

Objectives

We focus on the observed effects of the pandemic on landscapes and people composing diverse land systems across the globe.

Methods

We highlight the interrelated impacts of the pandemic shock on the economic, health, and mobility dimensions of land systems using six vignettes from different land systems on four continents, analyzed through the lens of socio-ecological resilience and the telecoupling framework. We present preliminary comparative insights gathered through interviews, surveys, key informants, and authors’ observations and propose new research avenues for land system scientists.

Results

The pandemic’s effects have been unevenly distributed, context-specific, and dependent on the multiple connections that link land systems across the globe.

Conclusions

We argue that the pandemic presents concurrent “natural experiments” that can advance our understanding of the intricate ways in which global shocks produce direct, indirect, and spillover effects on local and regional landscapes and land systems. These propagating shock effects disrupt existing connections, forge new connections, and re-establish former connections between peoples, landscapes, and land systems.

This perspective article emerged from a series of webinars and online discussions held under the aegis of the Global Land Programme (https://glp.earth) during the latter half of 2021.