Evaluating land-use related environmental impacts of biomass value chains for decision-support

Comparison and testing of methodologies proposed for environmental life cycle assessment: Dissertation

Tuomas Helin

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles

Abstract

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most established quantitative tools for environmental impact assessment of products. To be able to provide support to environmentally-aware decision makers on environmental impacts of biomass value-chains, the scope of LCA methodology needs to be augmented to cover landuse related environmental impacts. This dissertation focuses on analysing and discussing potential impact assessment methods, conceptual models and environmental indicators that have been proposed to be implemented into the LCA framework for impacts of land use. The applicability of proposed indicators and impact assessment frameworks is tested from practitioners' perspective, especially focusing on forest biomass value chains. The impacts of land use on biodiversity, resource depletion, climate change and other ecosystem services is analysed and discussed and the interplay in between value choices in LCA modelling and the decision-making situations to be supported is critically discussed. It was found out that land use impact indicators are necessary in LCA in highlighting differences in impacts from distinct land use classes. However, many open questions remain on certainty of highlighting actual impacts of land use, especially regarding impacts of managed forest land use on biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water regulation and purification. The climate impact of energy use of boreal stemwood was found to be higher in the short term and lower in the long-term in comparison with fossil fuels that emit identical amount of CO2 in combustion, due to changes implied to forest C stocks. The climate impacts of energy use of boreal stemwood were found to be higher than the previous estimates suggest on forest residues and stumps. The product lifetime was found to have much higher influence on the climate impacts of woodbased value chains than the origin of stemwood either from thinnings or final fellings. Climate neutrality seems to be likely only in the case when almost all the carbon of harvested wood is stored in long-lived wooden products. In the current form, the land use impacts cannot be modelled with a high degree of certainty nor communicated with adequate level of clarity to decision makers. The academia needs to keep on improving the modelling framework, and more importantly, clearly communicate to decision-makers the limited certainty on whether land-use intensive activities can help in meeting the strict mitigation targets we are globally facing.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • Lappeenranta University of Technology
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Soukka, Risto, Supervisor, External person
  • Soimakallio, Sampo, Advisor, External person
Award date6 Mar 2015
Place of PublicationEspoo
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-38-8208-2
Electronic ISBNs978-951-38-8209-9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fingerprint

environmental impact
life cycle
land use
methodology
biomass
climate effect
energy use
ecosystem service
biodiversity
resource depletion
environmental indicator
comparison
decision
environmental impact assessment
assessment method
fossil fuel
modeling
purification
thinning
mitigation

Keywords

  • life cycle assessment
  • environmental impacts of land use
  • biodiversity
  • resource depletion
  • ecosystem services
  • climate regulation
  • decision-support

Cite this

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title = "Evaluating land-use related environmental impacts of biomass value chains for decision-support: Comparison and testing of methodologies proposed for environmental life cycle assessment: Dissertation",
abstract = "Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most established quantitative tools for environmental impact assessment of products. To be able to provide support to environmentally-aware decision makers on environmental impacts of biomass value-chains, the scope of LCA methodology needs to be augmented to cover landuse related environmental impacts. This dissertation focuses on analysing and discussing potential impact assessment methods, conceptual models and environmental indicators that have been proposed to be implemented into the LCA framework for impacts of land use. The applicability of proposed indicators and impact assessment frameworks is tested from practitioners' perspective, especially focusing on forest biomass value chains. The impacts of land use on biodiversity, resource depletion, climate change and other ecosystem services is analysed and discussed and the interplay in between value choices in LCA modelling and the decision-making situations to be supported is critically discussed. It was found out that land use impact indicators are necessary in LCA in highlighting differences in impacts from distinct land use classes. However, many open questions remain on certainty of highlighting actual impacts of land use, especially regarding impacts of managed forest land use on biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water regulation and purification. The climate impact of energy use of boreal stemwood was found to be higher in the short term and lower in the long-term in comparison with fossil fuels that emit identical amount of CO2 in combustion, due to changes implied to forest C stocks. The climate impacts of energy use of boreal stemwood were found to be higher than the previous estimates suggest on forest residues and stumps. The product lifetime was found to have much higher influence on the climate impacts of woodbased value chains than the origin of stemwood either from thinnings or final fellings. Climate neutrality seems to be likely only in the case when almost all the carbon of harvested wood is stored in long-lived wooden products. In the current form, the land use impacts cannot be modelled with a high degree of certainty nor communicated with adequate level of clarity to decision makers. The academia needs to keep on improving the modelling framework, and more importantly, clearly communicate to decision-makers the limited certainty on whether land-use intensive activities can help in meeting the strict mitigation targets we are globally facing.",
keywords = "life cycle assessment, environmental impacts of land use, biodiversity, resource depletion, ecosystem services, climate regulation, decision-support",
author = "Tuomas Helin",
year = "2015",
language = "English",
isbn = "978-951-38-8208-2",
series = "VTT Science",
publisher = "VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland",
number = "75",
address = "Finland",
school = "Lappeenranta University of Technology",

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Evaluating land-use related environmental impacts of biomass value chains for decision-support : Comparison and testing of methodologies proposed for environmental life cycle assessment: Dissertation. / Helin, Tuomas.

Espoo : VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, 2015. 128 p.

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles

TY - THES

T1 - Evaluating land-use related environmental impacts of biomass value chains for decision-support

T2 - Comparison and testing of methodologies proposed for environmental life cycle assessment: Dissertation

AU - Helin, Tuomas

PY - 2015

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N2 - Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most established quantitative tools for environmental impact assessment of products. To be able to provide support to environmentally-aware decision makers on environmental impacts of biomass value-chains, the scope of LCA methodology needs to be augmented to cover landuse related environmental impacts. This dissertation focuses on analysing and discussing potential impact assessment methods, conceptual models and environmental indicators that have been proposed to be implemented into the LCA framework for impacts of land use. The applicability of proposed indicators and impact assessment frameworks is tested from practitioners' perspective, especially focusing on forest biomass value chains. The impacts of land use on biodiversity, resource depletion, climate change and other ecosystem services is analysed and discussed and the interplay in between value choices in LCA modelling and the decision-making situations to be supported is critically discussed. It was found out that land use impact indicators are necessary in LCA in highlighting differences in impacts from distinct land use classes. However, many open questions remain on certainty of highlighting actual impacts of land use, especially regarding impacts of managed forest land use on biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water regulation and purification. The climate impact of energy use of boreal stemwood was found to be higher in the short term and lower in the long-term in comparison with fossil fuels that emit identical amount of CO2 in combustion, due to changes implied to forest C stocks. The climate impacts of energy use of boreal stemwood were found to be higher than the previous estimates suggest on forest residues and stumps. The product lifetime was found to have much higher influence on the climate impacts of woodbased value chains than the origin of stemwood either from thinnings or final fellings. Climate neutrality seems to be likely only in the case when almost all the carbon of harvested wood is stored in long-lived wooden products. In the current form, the land use impacts cannot be modelled with a high degree of certainty nor communicated with adequate level of clarity to decision makers. The academia needs to keep on improving the modelling framework, and more importantly, clearly communicate to decision-makers the limited certainty on whether land-use intensive activities can help in meeting the strict mitigation targets we are globally facing.

AB - Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most established quantitative tools for environmental impact assessment of products. To be able to provide support to environmentally-aware decision makers on environmental impacts of biomass value-chains, the scope of LCA methodology needs to be augmented to cover landuse related environmental impacts. This dissertation focuses on analysing and discussing potential impact assessment methods, conceptual models and environmental indicators that have been proposed to be implemented into the LCA framework for impacts of land use. The applicability of proposed indicators and impact assessment frameworks is tested from practitioners' perspective, especially focusing on forest biomass value chains. The impacts of land use on biodiversity, resource depletion, climate change and other ecosystem services is analysed and discussed and the interplay in between value choices in LCA modelling and the decision-making situations to be supported is critically discussed. It was found out that land use impact indicators are necessary in LCA in highlighting differences in impacts from distinct land use classes. However, many open questions remain on certainty of highlighting actual impacts of land use, especially regarding impacts of managed forest land use on biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water regulation and purification. The climate impact of energy use of boreal stemwood was found to be higher in the short term and lower in the long-term in comparison with fossil fuels that emit identical amount of CO2 in combustion, due to changes implied to forest C stocks. The climate impacts of energy use of boreal stemwood were found to be higher than the previous estimates suggest on forest residues and stumps. The product lifetime was found to have much higher influence on the climate impacts of woodbased value chains than the origin of stemwood either from thinnings or final fellings. Climate neutrality seems to be likely only in the case when almost all the carbon of harvested wood is stored in long-lived wooden products. In the current form, the land use impacts cannot be modelled with a high degree of certainty nor communicated with adequate level of clarity to decision makers. The academia needs to keep on improving the modelling framework, and more importantly, clearly communicate to decision-makers the limited certainty on whether land-use intensive activities can help in meeting the strict mitigation targets we are globally facing.

KW - life cycle assessment

KW - environmental impacts of land use

KW - biodiversity

KW - resource depletion

KW - ecosystem services

KW - climate regulation

KW - decision-support

M3 - Dissertation

SN - 978-951-38-8208-2

T3 - VTT Science

PB - VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

CY - Espoo

ER -