Land use impacts on biodiversity in LCA: proposal of characterization factors based on functional diversity

  • Danielle Maia de SouzaEmail author
  • Dan F. B. Flynn
  • Fabrice DeClerck
  • Ralph K. Rosenbaum
  • Henrique de Melo Lisboa
  • Thomas Koellner



The focus of land use modeling in life cycle impact assessment has been mainly on taxonomic measures of biodiversity, namely species richness (SR). However, increasing availability of trait data for species has led to the use of functional diversity (FD) as a promising metric to reflect the distinctiveness of species; this paper proposes the use of an FD index to calculate characterization factors (CFs) for land use impacts. Furthermore, we compare the results of the CFs to current practice and assess the increase in complexity introduced by the use of the new indicator.


The model proposed is based on data compiled by previous regional meta-analysis on SR and FD, in different land use types in the Americas. The taxonomic groups included were mammals, birds, and plants. Within each study, calculated values for FD for different land use types were compared with the natural or close-to-natural state, taken as the reference situation. FD values among different land uses were standardized, and CFs were calculated. The final results were then analyzed and compared by analysis of variance and post hoc tests. A sensitivity analysis was also applied to verify the influence on the choice of the reference state.

Results and discussion

The results show that significant differences exist between CFs for SR and FD metrics. Across all taxa, CFs differ significantly between land use types. The results support the use of CF for FD, as a complement to current practice. Distinct CFs should be applied for at least six groups of land use categories. The choice of reference land use type did not significantly alter the results but can be a source of variability. A sensitivity analysis evaluating the impact of alternate land use types as reference types found only few significant changes on the results.

Conclusions and recommendations

Given the results, we believe the use of CFs based on FD can help on the establishment of possible links between species loss and key ecosystem functions, i.e., on the association between the midpoint indicator (e.g., biodiversity loss) and the damage caused to ecosystem quality, in terms of functions lost. Basing CFs on FD is not without challenges. Such indices are data hungry (requiring species composition and traits) require more complex calculations than current common practice, including decisions on the choice of a method to calculate FD and the selection of traits.


Biodiversity indicator Functional diversity Global characterization factors Land use LCIA Regionalization 



We would like to thank the LC Impact (Life Cycle Impact Assessment Methods for Improved Sustainability Characterization of Technologies, Grant Agreement N.243827, funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme) and SoilTrEC (Soil Transformations in European Catchments, Grant Agreement N. 244118, funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme) Projects for the financial support provided for the development of this research. Further, we are also thankful to M. Gogol-Prokurat, T. Nogeire, N. Molinari, B.T. Richers, B.B. Lin, N. Simpson, and M.M. Mayfield, who through Fabrice DeClerck and Dan Flynn have made part of the metadata available for this study.

Supplementary material

11367_2013_578_MOESM1_ESM.doc (460 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 459 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danielle Maia de Souza
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dan F. B. Flynn
    • 3
  • Fabrice DeClerck
    • 4
  • Ralph K. Rosenbaum
    • 5
  • Henrique de Melo Lisboa
    • 6
  • Thomas Koellner
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Geosciences, Professorship of Ecological ServicesUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Joint Research CentreEuropean CommissionIspraItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Bioversity International, Parc Scientifique Agropolis IIMontpellier Cedex 5France
  5. 5.Section for Quantitative Sustainability Assessment (QSA), Department of Management EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  6. 6.Departamento de Engenharia Sanitária e Ambiental, Centro TecnológicoUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil

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