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Moving beyond land use intensity types: Assessing biodiversity impacts using fuzzy thinking

: Lindner, Jan Paul; Eberle, Ulrike; Knüpffer, Eva; Coelho, Carla

Fulltext urn:nbn:de:0011-n-6404959 (1.8 MByte PDF)
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Created on: 23.9.2021

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 26 (2021), No.7, pp.1338-1356
ISSN: 0948-3349
ISSN: 1614-7502
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IBP ()

Purpose: The impact of land use on biodiversity is a topic that has received considerable attention in life cycle assessment (LCA). The methodology to assess biodiversity in LCA has been improved in the past decades. This paper contributes to this progress by building on the concept of conditions for maintained biodiversity. It describes the theory for the development of mathematical functions representing the impact of land uses and management practices on biodiversity.
Methods: The method proposed here describes the impact of land use on biodiversity as a decrease in biodiversity potential, capturing the impact of management practices. The method can be applied with weighting between regions, such as ecoregions. The biodiversity potential is calculated through functions that describe not only parameters which are relevant to biodiversity, for example, deadwood in a forest, but also the relationships between those parameters. For example, maximum biodiversity would hypothetically occur when the nutrient balance is ideal and no pesticide is applied. As these relationships may not be readily quantified, we propose the use of fuzzy thinking for biodiversity assessment, using AND/OR operators. The method allows the inclusion of context parameters that represent neither the management nor the land use practice being investigated, but are nevertheless relevant to biodiversity. The parameters and relationships can be defined by either literature or expert interviews. We give recommendations on how to create the biodiversity potential functions by providing the reader with a set of questions that can help build the functions and find the relationship between parameters.
Results and discussion: We present a simplified case study of paper production in the Scandinavian and Russian Taiga to demonstrate the applicability of the method. We apply the method to two scenarios, one representing an intensive forestry practice, and another representing lower intensity forestry management. The results communicate the differences between the two scenarios quantitatively, but more importantly, are able to provide guidance on improved management. We discuss the advantages of this condition-based approach compared to pre-defined intensity classes. The potential drawbacks of defining potential functions from industry-derived studies are pointed out. This method also provides a less strict approach to a reference situation, consequently allowing the adequate assessment of cases in which the most beneficial biodiversity state is achieved through management practices.
Conclusions: The originality of using fuzzy thinking is that it enables land use management practices to be accounted for in LCA without requiring sub-categories for different intensities to be explicitly established, thus moving beyond the classification of land use practices. The proposed method is another LCIA step toward closing the gap between land use management practices and biodiversity conservation goals.