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The eco-costs of land

The increasing use of land (urban areas, industrial areas, road infrastructure, etc.) is a major cause of degradation of our environment. In the last decennia there is a growing concern about this negative aspect of a growing population and a growing economic wealth. So, most of the LCA practitioners feel the need for incorporating the negative aspects of 'land-use'.
The eco-costs system describes the impact of land-use is in terms of conversion of land (Finnveden, 1996), also called 'land-use change', being the degradation of 'quality of land', with the dimension of ( €/m2 ). This relates to the idea that nature is being destroyed and the environment is degraded at the moment urban and industrial areas or railway and road infrastructure is expanded. The conversion of land causes depletion of scarce 'nature', similar to the resource depletion of materials when virgin materials are used for products.

The 'eco-costs of land-use' is related to the marginal costs of prevention (or compensation) of the negative environmental effects of change of land-use. These eco-costs of land are based on five sustainability characteristics of land (before and after the conversion):
1. the botanical aspects (the specie richness and the rarity of ecosystems and vascular plants), called bio-diversity
2. the aspect of 'scenic beauty'
3. the aspect of production of food and biomass
4. the aspect of the H2O cycle.

5. the aspect of change of CO2 sequestration before and after the conversion

Aspect 1 (bio-diversity) and aspect 5 (carbon sequestration) have been operationalised in the eco-costs tables as well as the Idemat(app) tables in Simapro, to enable LCA calculations on wood and agricultural products

The eco-costs of land-use for (tropical) wood and bamboo

For land-use change, the change of sequestred carbon ('carbon sequestration credit') in Boreal forests has been calculated on a global scale, and then allocated to the wood in '4 side sawn' beams per kg. Similar calcuilations have been made for bamboo (Vogtlander et al. 2014). However, these effects are dealt with in the eco-costs of carbonfootprint.
For tropical hardwood, however, the situation is different. The change in sequestered carbon is zero in the case of FSC wood, since the forest is either kept intact to enable regrowth (Reduced Impact Logging), or it is a plantation. In case of 'clear cut', the carbon sequestration degradation (debit) is calculated for '4 side sawn' beams per kg.

For the eco-costs of land-use in tropical forests (biodegradation), the prevention costs of biodiversity have been calculated for the prevention of the production of palm oil from palm oil plantations in Indonesia (which is one of the most appalling situations of degrading biodiversity). The prevention measure here is to stop the palm oil production and replace that by oil from agricultural waste (biobased oil by pyrolysis of waste). These prevention costs are estimated at 6.0 €/m2, applied to land with a biodiversity of 4000 vascular species per 10.000 km2 (case: Sumatra and a big part of Kalimantang). The degradation of 4000 species per 10.000km2 is set as the norm for palm oil plantations: biodiversity factor = 1. Other countries are compared to this norm with a biodiversity factor, proportional to the number of species, ranging from 1.25 (e.g. Central Kalimantang, Part of the Andes and Middle America, with more than 5000 species per 10.000 km2) to 0.025 (e.g. Greenland, northern part of Siberia, Sahara, with about 100 species per 10.000 km2).
eco-costs of species richness (€/m2) = Area (m2) x 6.0 (€/m2) x 'biodiversity factor'
For an overview, see Fig, 2.5.a For a high resolution global map, see world biodiversity map big .

An interesting issue here is the fact that this biodiversity factor reasonably holds for other biodiversity indicators, like number of mammal species and bird species on a normalised logarithmic scale. See Fig. 2.5.b and 2.5.c.. Other maps on specific species can be found at the website of the biodiversity mapping organisation developed by Clinton Jenkins of the IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Jenkins et al. 2013)

The eco-costs of land-use for agricultural products from Europe (and Brazil)

To enable land-use calculations for agricultural products in Ecoinvent, a conversion table has been created to cope with the Ecoinvent Occupational Land-use data, based on the degredation of biodiversity caused by the growing area of agrecultural land (12.5% per 30 years, see FAO report 'World agriculture: towards 2015 / 2030'). Since Ecoinvent does not provide data per region or country, the EU area (i.e. Germany, France) and the average for the USA, both with a biodiversity factor of 0.375, are taken as norm for this conversion table.
Note. Brasil has an average biodiversity factor of 0.75, so two times the factor for the EU and the USA. The consequence is that the eco-costs of land-use that are calculated by the Ecoinvent data must be multiplied by a factor two for agricultural production in Brasil.

An alternative, more detailed calculation, on the eco-costs of land in the Netherlands

For The Netherlands, a special more detailed calculation hase been made, as an alternative. See Chapter 7 of the thesis; for a description of this first botanical aspect see also (Vogtländer et al., 2004).

The eco-costs of land, based on botanical aspects provides two systems (the LCA practitioner has to make a choice on which system to use, based on available data):
a. a coarse system, based on the number of vascular plant species in a certain area, with the impact category "Species Richness"
b. a more subtle system, based on both the species richness and the rarity of vascular plants and their ecosystems, with the impact category "Rare Ecosystems".

The Eco-costs of Species Richness is calculated with the number of species of vascular plants, S, per km2:
eco-costs of Species Richness (€/m2) = Area (m2) x 5,7 x S (per km2) / 250
Note 1: 5.7 (€) is related to the costs of the required compensation; S > 250 for 11% of the total area of The Netherlands. For a map on S, see Fig. 2.5d.
Note 2: These data are also valid for a big part of Europe, where 250 species per km2 equals 1250 species per 10.000 km2, see biodiversity map of the world.

A more subtle system might be used within The Netherlands (since data are available). It is based on the rarity of vascular plants, the botanical value Q:
Eco-costs of Rare Ecosystems = Area (m2) x 5,7 x Q / 3.3 (€/m2)
Notes: 5.7 (€) is related to the costs of the required compensation; Q > 3.3 for 20% of the total area of The Netherlands. For a map on Q, see Fig. 2.5e

Comparison of slide 2.5a and slide 2.5b reveals that there seems to be a correlation of the data of the two methods on a regional level ("when the species richness S is high, the botanical value Q is also high in most of the cases").
However, when those maps are analysed in detail on a local level, differences between the two methods can be very significant.
Details are given here for the Northern part of The Netherlands: the islands North of the Waddenzee (Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Rottemerplaat and Rottemeroog). It is evident that parts of these islands score low on the species richness map, but high on the rare ecosystems map. See Fig. 2.5.f. An example is the island of Rottemerplaat, a protected area because of its high conservation value: Q is higher than 10.4, however, S is only between 136 and 109 species at one km2 !
Note. It seems to be that the diversity of vascular plants is related with the diversity of other types of species (Barthlott et al. 1999), see Fig. 2.5g.


Joost G. Vogtländer & Natascha M. van der Velden & Pablo van der Lugt; Carbon sequestration in LCA, a proposal for a new approach based on the global carbon cycle; cases on wood and on bamboo
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2014) 19:13–23 DOI 10.1007/s11367-013-0629-6

J.G. Vogtländer, E. Lindeijer, J.-P. M. Witte, Ch. Hendriks; Chacterizing the change of land-use based on Flora: application for EIA and LCA, J. of Cleaner Production, 12, 2004, pp.47-57,

Bartlott, Kier, Mutke. 1999. GlobaleArtenvielfalt und ihre ungleiche Verteilung.

Jenkins et al., 2013, Global patterns of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and conservation, PNAS July 9, 2013 110 (28) E2602-E2610; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1302251110

General literature: see under tab data, reference 1.0 and 1.7.




Fig. 2.5.a. biodiversity of vascular plants
(click for details)

Fig. 2.5.b. biodiversity of mammals
(click for details)

Fig. 2.5.c. biodiversity of birds
(click for details)


Fig. 2.5.d (click for details)

Fig. 2.5.e (click for details)

Fig. 2.5.f (click for details)

Fig. 2.5.g (click for details)