The eco-costs of land-use


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 (Lindeijer, 2000), 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 system, to enable LCA calculations on wood and agricultural products. Aspect 3 is not relevant for food production, given the broad application of chemical fertilizers in practice. Aspect 2 and 4 are simply to complex in LCA.

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

For land-use change, the change of sequestered carbon (‘carbon sequestration credit’) in Boreal forests might be calculated on a global scale, and then allocated to the wood in ‘4 side sawn’ beams per kg. Similar calculations can be made for bamboo (Vogtlander et al. 2014). However, these effects are not dealt with in the Idemat tables, since these effects are rather small, and it is not common practice to incorporate these effect in LCA.