Land Use in LCA (Subject Editor: Llorenç Milà i Canals)

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 22-31

Assessment of land use impact on biodiversity

Proposal of a new methodology exemplified with forestry operations in Norway
  • Ottar MichelsenAffiliated withDepartment of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology Email author 

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Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background

Land use and changes in land use have a significant impact on biodiversity. Still, there is no agreed upon methodology for how this impact should be assessed and included in LCA. This paper presents a methodology for including land use impact on biodiversity in Life Cycle Impact Assessment and provides a case example from forestry operations in Norway.

Materials and Methods

The methodology presented applies indirect assessments of biodiversity based on knowledge on what key factors are important for maintaining biodiversity in a boreal forest. These are used to construct an index on Conditions for Maintained Biodiversity. In addition the intrinsic quality of an area is assessed on the basis of the Ecosystem Scarcity and Ecosystem Vulnerability. Globally available data on ecoregions are here used. In addition the spatial and temporal impact is assessed based on the annual regrowth of the forest.

Results

In the case study different forestry management regimes for the ecoregions ‘Scandinavian and Russian taiga’ and Scandinavian coastal coniferous forests’ are compared. Based on the proposed methodology, the intrinsic quality difference of the two ecoregions is estimated to approximately 40% and the reduction in impact on biodiversity from land use by adopting new and realistic targets for the key factor ‘areas set aside’ is estimated to 20%.

Discussion

The paper presents a new methodology for how land use impacts on biodiversity can be included in LCA. The methodology is based upon a proposed framework and the results from the case study show that the methodology is capable to distinguish between different forestry management regimes and forestry in different ecoregions. The data used are readily available, but more research is needed to scale the proposed key factors and also include new key factors. It is at present not possible to validate the size of the differences.

Conclusions

The importance of land use impact on biodiversity is of major importance and should be included in LCIA. The proposed methodology is developed within a framework developed within the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and provides a methodology demonstrated to be able to distinguish between both similar activities in different ecoregions and different management practices within one ecoregion.

Recommendations and Perspectives

More work is needed to establish a methodology for land use impact on biodiversity in LCIA and due to the importance this should be a prioritized task. The proposed application of indirect indicators to assess impact on biodiversity from land use changes in LCIA should be further explored, but the proposed methodology can already be applied with globally available data on ecoregions. The challenge is to develop sound key factors for the relevant ecosystems.

Keywords

Biodiversity ecoregion forestry key factors land use impacts land quality LCA LCIA