Land use in life cycle assessment

Tuomas Mattila, Tuomas Helin, Riina Antikainen, Sampo Soimakallio, Kim Pingoud, Helena Wessman

Research output: Book/ReportReport


As human population is continuously increasing, productive land is becoming even more limited resource for biomass production. Land use and land use change cause various environmental impacts. At the moment the focus is on land use related greenhouse gas emissions, but changes in carbon cycles and storages, soil quality and soil net productivity, and loss of biodiversity are growing in importance. Additionally, changes in land use and land cover also affect water quality and availability. Currently, land use related terminology is diverse, and the methodologies to assess the impacts of land use and land use change are still partly under development. The aim of this study was to discuss how land use induced environmental impacts can be taken into consideration in the life cycle assessment (LCA). This report summarises the results of the FINLCA project’s (Life Cycle Assessment Framework and Tools for Finnish Companies) two tasks (WP 2.1 land use and WP 5.2 biomaterials). The study was conducted in co-operation with the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. As a result, we show that it is possible to make land use impact assessment with LCA. Indicators are available for climate impacts and for all the other identified land use impact categories (resource depletion, soil quality, and biodiversity). However, limited land use related data reduces the reliability of the results. Most widely used life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods (e.g. ReCiPe, CML or EI99) cover only one aspect of land use induced environmental impacts. Additionally, some of the land use indicator results are difficult to understand and communicate. From the company perspective, we considered that accounting of land occupation (m2a) and transformation (m2 from and to) is a good starting point together with the relatively simple ecological footprint indicator for productive land occupation (resource depletion). A more comprehensive and challenging approach to land use impact assessment in LCA is to include all three impact categories and add the SOC/SOM indicator for soil quality impacts and EDP or PDF indicator for biodiversity. In case no quantitative assessment can be done, we propose that companies would map their raw materials’ origins. Even a qualitative assessment related to products’ life cycles would help to identify if there are any potential land use or direct and indirect land use change risks.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
PublisherFinnish Environment Institute SYKE
Number of pages86
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-11-3926-0
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesFinnish Environment


  • Land use
  • life cycle analysis
  • indicators
  • environmental impact assessment
  • environmental impacts
  • climate impacts
  • biodiversity
  • companies


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