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Session Overview
309RB: Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services - Part B
Thursday, 25/Apr/2019:
3:15pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Thomas Kastner
Session Chair: Alexandra Marques
Location: MB-120
Main Building, room 120, first floor, west wing, 80 (+14) seats
Session Topics:
How do we support transformation?

Session Abstract

In land systems, biodiversity is key to the maintenance of ecosystem functions, which in turn underpin the supply ecosystem services harnessed by human societies. While agricultural and forestry activities are essential for human survival and well-being, they are also one of the major drivers of global biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Ultimately, the consumption of land-based products is the main force behind the demand for land and the intensity of land use. Increasing globalization and industrialization is telecoupling consumption in one place to production in remote regions. To devise land-use strategies that address both production and conservation targets, proper accounting tools that link consumption activities to their biodiversity impacts are essential. Main challenges in establishing such accounting tools include: quantifying different dimensions of biodiversity and its temporal trends at large scales; the attribution of these trends to individual land-based products and land-use processes; and the disentangling of complex international supply chains. These peculiarities are the main culprits why the development of consumption-based tools for biodiversity and ecosystem services lags behind recent advances in accounting of other environmental pressures and impacts. In this session, we bring to together researchers at the forefront of consumption-based accounting of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Recent developments will be discussed, highlighting the potential, robustness and limitations of different approaches. The potential of consumption-based accounting to contributing to an alignment of production and conservation targets in land systems and to minimize trade-offs between the two will be critically explored.

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Full talk
ID: 886 / 309RB: 1
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: life cycle assessment, environmental impacts, modelling, biogeophysical effects

Using life cycle assessment (LCA) to link production and consumption activities to biogeophysical effects of land use

Anders Bjørn1, Sarah Sim2, Henry King2, Patrick Keys3, Lan Wang Erlandsson4, Sarah Cornell4, Manuele Margni1, Cecile Bulle5

1Polytechnique Montréal, Canada; 2Unilever Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, Unilever R&D, Colworth Science Park, Sharnbrook, UK; 3School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University, Colorado, USA; 4Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; 5CIRAIG, ESG UQÀM, Montreal (QC), Canada

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is commonly applied to evaluate the total potential environmental impacts of a product. This is done in two steps. First, the activities that are involved in a production system are linked via their physical and/or monetary exchanges and their emissions and resource use are quantified. Second, environmental models are employed to quantify potential impacts for a wide range of categories, such as climate change, freshwater scarcity and land use effects. The state of the art modelling of land use effects in LCA considers the location and type of a land-cover change (e.g., from tropical forest to soy cultivation) as well as the area and duration of the new land-cover and relevant management practices (e.g., rain-fed versus irrigated crops).

LCA methods have mainly focused on modelling effects of land use on biodiversity within the disturbed lands and on global climate regulation from biogenic carbon emissions. In comparison, land use effects on biogeophysical processes that regulate local and regional climate - i.e., exchange of energy, water, and momentum between the land surface and the atmosphere - have been largely overlooked.

Here, we propose to quantify biogeophysical effects of land use by modelling changes to precipitation and air surface temperature in the location of land-cover change, as well as in other (e.g., downwind) affected locations. We identify existing modelling approaches suitable for use in LCA and identify remaining research needs. Further, in recognition that terrestrial ecosystems often react non-linearly to changes in precipitation and temperature, we identify relevant threshold values that separate alternative stable states (such as forest, savanna and grassland). These threshold values can be used as references in the quantification of biogeophysical effects and may be considered when defining conservation targets at various scales.

Full talk
ID: 346 / 309RB: 2
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: biodiversity, indicators, life cycle assessment, e-DNA, landscape configuration

New biodiversity indicators for use in life cycle assessment

Ulrika Johanna Palme1,2, Emke Vrasdonk1,2, Annie Jonsson3, Sofia Berg3

1Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden; 2Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre; 3Univerity of Skövde

One of the most frequently used tools to assess the environmental impact from products, and hence consumption, is environmental life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA is however struggling with how to include impacts from land use on biodiversity and ecosystem services in a way that is simple enough, yet adequate. The present guidelines rest on assessment of species richness, but important aspects such as genetic diversity and landscape configuration, are missing. There is a set of approaches that rest on expert judgement that claim to include also these aspects due to their holistic approach, but expert judgement can be perceived as subjective. In our research we have looked at two novel ways of assessing impacts on biodiversity that could be integrated in LCA or other environmental systems analysis tools: Assessment by use of 1) an indicator based on genetic analysis of soil and insect samples and 2) a landscape biodiversity capacity index (LBCI).

Genetic analysis by retrieving DNA from environmental samples (environmental DNA – eDNA) allows for the generation of quick and cheap diversity data for entire communities so that they can be compared across time and space. Besides macro-organisms such an indicator includes micro-organisms, insects and fungi which are likely to play an even greater role in regulating ecosystem function, food chains, nutrient cycles and carbon storage, among others. The second assessment method, LBCI, reflects the level of heterogeneity and fragmentation of the landscape. LBCI uses land-cover data as a basis for calculations and is built on three hypotheses derived from well-established ecological knowledge and theory. The basic assumptions are that landscape biodiversity increases with number of biotopes, evenness of the area between biotopes and functional connectivity of biotopes. This is work in progress, so we will present the methodology, expected potential and preliminary results from the application of the methods in a case study on beef production in different landscapes in Sweden.

Flash talk
ID: 606 / 309RB: 3
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: sustainable intensification, greenhouse gas emission savings, land use savings, human and livestock diet, food and agriculture systems

Assessing the environmental impacts of production- and consumption-side measures in sustainable agriculture intensification in the European Union

Anna Liza Bais-Moleman1, Catharina J.E. Schulp1, Peter H. Verburg1,2

1Environmental Geography, Institute of Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 2Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Sustainable agricultural intensification (SI) is an important strategy to respond to the combined challenge of achieving food security and providing public goods and ecosystem services to society, including mitigation and adaptation of climate change. Sustainable intensification includes a wide range of measures at both the supply and demand-side of agricultural production. However, currently, it is unclear what are the most effective and priority measures. This study aims at identifying the most effective SI measures, their potential trade-offs and their effects on trade and yield gap. This study assesses the potential of different SI measures for reducing GHG emissions and increasing land use efficiency in the European Union’s agriculture sector. A scenario approach was combined with life cycle analysis to quantify the environmental impacts of a number of different SI measures. The sustainable intensification measures assessed in this study are: 1) changing human diet; 2) using food waste in livestock diets; 3) shifting from monoculture cropping to crop rotation, and, 4) incorporating crop residues into the soil. The results reveal that the studied SI measures have the potential to increase land use savings, ranging from 0.06 to 3.32 m2/person/day, while GHG emission savings ranging from 71 to 1,872 gCO2-eq/person/day can be achieved at EU level. Among these SI measures, changing human diet showed a remarkably high reduction of environmental impacts. On the contrary, increased GHG emission savings in the other SI measures (e.g. crop residue incorporation in the field and replacing soybean meal in conventional feed by food waste-based feed) are counter effected by increased GHG emissions in the energy sector due to reduction of feedstock availability for bioenergy production. The approach used in this study allows the assessment of both the production and consumption-side SI measures and allows the identification of the most effective SI measures and their potential trade-offs.

Flash talk
ID: 380 / 309RB: 4
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: Trade-offs, Interregional sustainability, Ecosystem service burdens, Food systems

'Functional regions'- a different perspective on sustainable food systems in an interconnected world

Dor Fridman, Meidad Kissinger

Ben Gurion University, Israel

Food demand has increased rapidly over the last few decades, and is expected to increase further within the near future. Already today many countries' food security is at least partially dependent on imported food. Such interregional dependencies may indirectly drive ecosystems degradation in remote regions. Promoting interregional sustainability therefore requires an understanding of the environmental burdens driven by international trade.

Several studies have accounted the flows of crops, and of embodied cropland, water and fertilizers between countries. However, accounting for the environmental and social impact of these remote interactions requires an analysis at resolutions higher than national. Based on a global 10 km grid, the idea of a 'functional region' was introduced recently by the presenters and will be the main focus of this presentation.

A 'functional region' is a spatial-explicit production class defined by its relative agricultural performance and environmental state as measured by different indicators. The demonstrated 'functional regions' will cover four major highly globally traded staple crops: wheat, maize, soybeans and rice. Each will be described by two spatial explicit indicators describing agricultural performance: yield and water intensity, and by two indicators describing the environmental system and its capacity to withstand against human derived pressure: soil loss and water availability. At the moment, global agricultural production areas were classified into 24 'functional regions' based on the interactions between agricultural efficiency and dominant environmental conditions.

This typology forms an intermediate scale which relates global and interregional flows to local ecosystem impacts. Therefore it can be used for identifying global hotspots preferable for crop production and hidden inefficiencies, and for crop production and environmental based trade optimization studies. It may also help promoting effective policies, identifying research gaps and detecting hidden costs and benefits of agricultural commodities international trade.

Flash talk
ID: 441 / 309RB: 5
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: agriculture, food production, biodiversity change

Factors determining the biodiversity value of croplands worldwide

Charlie Outhwaite, Monica Ortiz, Carole Dalin, Tim Newbold

University College London, United Kingdom

A certain amount of land-use change ‒ cropland expansion or intensification ‒ is necessary to meet the food demand of an increasingly large and wealthy population. However, agricultural land use is the most threatening to biodiversity, while biodiversity can provide significant services to agriculture, such as pollination, natural pest control and nutrient cycling. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve food security ‒ underpinned by adequate food production ‒ and to halt biodiversity loss by 2030. Most studies of environmentally sustainable food production have focused on issues related to water, chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions; with impacts on biodiversity accounted for implicitly, via proxies such as land use itself, or ecosystem pollution. While recent work has provided more direct metrics of the impacts of food production on biodiversity, including the effects of trade, models need to be improved to provide accurate global-scale indicators. The diversity of agricultural systems means that there are varying levels of biodiversity within croplands. While intensively farmed croplands have generally low levels of biodiversity, other farming systems may have synergies with biodiversity; for example, it has been shown that biodiversity can improve and deliver ecosystem services such as pollination, with a positive impact on yield. It is possible that factors such as the type of crop, its yield, and the proximity of the cropland to areas of primary vegetation, have effects on species richness and abundance. Understanding this effect will start to shed light on the drivers of biodiversity change in agricultural systems, and the synergies and trade offs that result. To investigate these relationships, we use global biodiversity, vegetation, and crop yield datasets to test the following two research questions: (1) Does proximity to primary vegetation result in greater biodiversity of agricultural areas? and (2) What is the current relationship between crop yield and local biodiversity, globally?

Full talk
ID: 638 / 309RB: 6
309R Assessing and evaluating the impact of the consumption of land-based products on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Keywords: Consumption-based accounting, global supply chains, distant drivers, brazilian cattle

Global food and non-food supply chains of Brazilian cattle products and their land footprints

Martin Bruckner1, Victor Maus1,2

1Vienna University of Economics and Business, Institute for Ecological Economics, Austria; 2International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Ecosystems Services and Management Program

Cattle ranching is argued to be responsible for large parts of deforestation and biodiversity loss observed in Brazil over the last 40 years. According to the literature, conversion to pasture accounts for about 70% of clearing activity in the Brazilian Amazon, with large shares of the remaining 30% being used for the cultivation of feed crops like maize and soybeans. Continuously growing demand for Brazilian beef, particularly from China and Middle East, along with unabated domestic consumption, drove production volumes from 1.8 million tonnes of cattle meat in 1970 to 9.8 million tonnes in 2013, hence requiring substantial expansion of grazing and cropland.

Using the newly developed Food and Agriculture Biomass Input-Output model (FABIO), a physical input-output model covering 190 countries, 130 agri-food products, and more than 50 industrial products for 1986 to 2013, we analysed the global supply chains of Brazilian cattle products, including both food and non-food products, on an unprecedented level of detail. Our analysis reveals that domestic consumption remains the main driver of cattle production, while external demand increases at much higher rates. Beef and milk still are the dominant products. However, non-food uses, for example hides in the leather industry and fats in the chemical industry, are gaining in importance. At the same time we observe an accelerating complexity and length of supply chains.

Full talk
ID: 846 / 309RB: 7
108R Farming into the future: balancing global competitiveness and localised comparative advantage?
Keywords: agribusiness, conservation planning, clusters, land use change, land use systems

Analyzing ecoregions’ condition for the potential agriculture expansion in South America

Lucía Zarbá1, H. Ricardo Grau1, N. Ignacio Gasparri1, Jordan Graesser2, T. Mitchell Aide3

1Instituto de Ecología Regional, CONICET- Universidad Nacional de Tucumán; 2School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland; 3Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico

Cropland and pastureland are expanding throughout South America, often replacing natural ecosystems. Commodity production for export is one of the main drivers of this expansion, and indirectly inducing other land use changes. Previous studies found a segregated land use reorganization across the continent, suggesting that geography plays an important role in these dynamics. Understanding the local setting influences on larger scale agriculture dynamics would help us predict how different ecoregions respond to international drivers, and contextualize policy and planning efforts to maximize land use efficiency and conservation. In this study, we attempted to capture the globalized agribusiness viewpoint as a major agent of change. Specifically, we asked: Which ecoregions are more likely to undergo similar transformation dynamics and what type of agricultural activities may occur in them?

To address these questions we created a data-driven clustering of ecoregions based on four simple geographic variables: (i) aptitude for mechanized agriculture, (ii) aptitude for rain-fed agriculture, (iii) distance to logistic/historic urban centers (cities), and (iv) distance connections to global markets (ports). The analysis grouped the ecoregions in eight clusters that showed correlation with current agriculture distribution and recent trends (pseudo R2=0.5) and reflect the conditions for agribusiness expansion. Our results highlighted groups of ecoregions with good aptitudes for agribusiness defined as "highly connected humid lowlands" (e.g. pampa region), "far humid lowlands” (e.g. moist chaco and chiquitania), and "accessible semiarid lowlands" (e.g. dry chaco), as opposed to least preferable groups defined as “far montane drylands” (e.g. high andes and patagonia) or “remote humid lowlands” (e.g. pantepui and southwest amazon). We propose this grouping as a guiding stratification of the ecoregions of South America to analyze land use processes, specially the cases related with the agribusiness expansion and its cascade effects.

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