Corruption and illicit activity affect land change

New research published in Nature Sustainability presents a conceptual framework of illicit land transactions and a new approach to spatially link illicit activities to land use. The paper, Understanding the role of illicit transactions in land-change dynamics, was authored by Beth Tellman, a doctoral alumnus from ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and now a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University.

From large deforestation in Costa Rica by narco drug traffickers to illegal sand mining by mafia groups in India to illicit transactions between urban developers and politicians in the United States, corrupt land transactions are pervasive across the globe. According to one study, 40% of deforestation globally is estimated to be illegal, and that number rises to 80% in places such as Indonesia and Brazil.

B. L. Turner II, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist and Regents Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, is a co-author of the study. “Land system science has long recognized that illegal and illicit activities are large in global land change but are lacking in our models and projections of that change,” Turner said. “This perspective makes the case that it can be added and be detected, in some instances, via remote sensing. It is a call to arms to the land system science community to take the subject seriously and how it may be done.”