Title: Assessing biodiversity loss due to land use with Life Cycle Assessment: Are we there yet?
Citation: GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY vol. 21 no. 1 p. 32-47
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC89167
ISSN: 1354-1013
URI: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12709/abstract
DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12709
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Ecosystems are under increasing pressure from human activities, with land use and land use change on the forefront of drivers promoting global and regional biodiversity loss. The challenge of reversing the negative outlook for the coming years starts at measuring loss rates and assigning responsibilities. The effects of land use on biodiversity dynamics are complex, and so pinpointing the main pressures to the state of biodiversity at the global scale is a task for holistic models such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is the leading method for calculating cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of products and services. LCA is actively promoted by many public policies and is part of environmental information systems in private companies. It already deals with potential biodiversity impacts from land use but there are significant obstacles to overcome before LCA models grasp the full reach of the phenomena involved. We discuss some pressing issues to solve. LCA introduces biodiversity as an endpoint category modeled as a loss in species richness due to transformation and occupation of land extending in time and space. Functional and population effects are mostly absent due to the emphasis on species accumulation with limited geographic and taxonomical reach. Current land use modeling with biodiversity indicators simplifies the real dynamics and complexity of interactions among species and with their habitats. We systematically reviewed all LCA studies on land use with findings in global change and conservation ecology to identify the main areas for improvement. To finalize, we provided indications on how to address some issues raised. If such task is successful, companies will start monitoring the impacts scattered in many locations along increasingly globalized supply chains and take definite steps towards addressing the impacts caused by land use.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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