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A meta-level analysis of global biomass trade in the context of land use, equity and global security

This one-year project maps the state-of-the-art scholarly research for describing and understanding global biomass trade and its implications for equity, security and land use. Global trade in biomass raises the carrying capacity of nation states in order to support dense human populations. Regulating the geographical distribution of biomass through the global trade network is now being touted as a strategy for managing the provision of biomass in the light of constraints that limit in situ NPP. Biomass trade presents challenges for global equity and security as nations aim to ensure their resource demands in light of dwindling land resources.

There exists a rich set of empirical studies in global land trade and biomass in the Earth system (some which highlight key vulnerabilities for supply as well as opportunities for climate change adaptation) but such studies tend to be highly technical and are cloaked in an arcane and abstract vocabulary that undermines their value in interdisciplinary dialogue. As well, many global-wide studies lack the social science perspectives necessary to interpret such patterns in terms of equity and global conflict.

Our research questions (RQs) are: (1) Which disciplines contribute to the study of global trade in biomass? (2) What central concepts, assumptions, and methodologies have been used to describe and understand these systems? (3) what theories are used to interpret them? (4) How have previous studies addressed the vulnerabilities that give rise to these trade patterns? (5) How do these studies articulate problems associated with global trade patterns? We will choose key words and subject them to a text/citation analysis in order to answer RQ (1). Network diagrams will enable us to identify clusters of scholarly traditions and interactions between them. A literature review will answer RQs (2,3). Here we will examine if the level of mutual understanding between studies is due to differences in basic assumptions or the data being used. To answer RQs (4,5) a subset of articles will be selected (based on representativeness of a tradition, particular perspective offered, novelty) in order to more deeply examine if the concepts and theories contained within them can be made more valuable and relevant for interdisciplinary dialogues.

Contact: Jonathan Seaquist and Annica Kronsell