Land use indicators in life cycle assessment: A case study on beer production

Tuomas Mattila, Tuomas Helin (Corresponding Author), Riina Antikainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose

Inclusion of land use-related environmental aspects into LCA methodology has been under active development in recent years. Although many indicators have been developed and proposed for different aspects of land use (climate change, biodiversity, resource depletion and soil quality), many of indicators have, as yet, not been tested and compared in LCA applications. The aim of this study is to test the different LCIA indicators in practice in a case study of beer production.

Materials and methods

Nine different indicators were selected to represent three different impact endpoints of land use: resource depletion, soil quality and biodiversity. The beer production system included all life cycle stages from barley cultivation and the production of energy and raw materials to the serving of beer at restaurant. Several optional system expansions were studied to estimate the possible impacts of substituting feed protein (soybean, rapeseed and silage) with mash coproduct from brewing. A comparison with wine production was also made for illustrative purposes.

Results and discussion

The majority of the land use impacts occurred in the cultivation phase, but significant impacts were also found far down the supply chain. The system expansions influenced the overall results markedly, especially for land transformation, soil organic carbon (SOC) and several of the biodiversity indicators. Most of the land use indicators led to results that were consistent with each other. In the inventory and impact assessment phase, challenges were faced in obtaining reliable data. Additionally, the lack of reliable, regional characterization factors limits the usability of the land use indicators and the reliability of the LCIA results, especially of the SOC indicator. None of the studied indicators fulfills all the criteria for an effective ecological indicator, but most have many positive features.

Conclusions

All tested land use indicators were applicable in LCIA. Some indicators were found to be highly sensitive to assumptions on land transformation, which sets high requirements for LCI data quality. Scarcity of land use LCI data sources limits validation and cross-comparison. Interpretation of indicator results is complicated due to the limited understanding of the environmental impact pathways of land use.

Recommendations

None of the tested indicators describes the full range of environmental impacts caused by land use. We recommend presenting land occupation and transformation LCI results, the ecological footprint and at least one of the biodiversity indicators. Regarding soil quality, the lack of reliable regional data currently limits application of the proposed methods. The criteria of effective ecological indicators should be reflected in further work in indicator development. Development of regionalized characterization factors is of key importance to include land use in LCA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-286
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fingerprint

life cycle
land use
soil quality
biodiversity
resource depletion
indicator
environmental impact
organic carbon
development indicator
ecological footprint
silage
data quality
barley
production system
soybean
soil

Keywords

  • Beer
  • biodiversity
  • indicators
  • land use
  • LCA
  • resource depletion
  • soil quality

Cite this

Mattila, Tuomas ; Helin, Tuomas ; Antikainen, Riina. / Land use indicators in life cycle assessment : A case study on beer production. In: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 2012 ; Vol. 17, No. 3. pp. 277-286.
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title = "Land use indicators in life cycle assessment: A case study on beer production",
abstract = "PurposeInclusion of land use-related environmental aspects into LCA methodology has been under active development in recent years. Although many indicators have been developed and proposed for different aspects of land use (climate change, biodiversity, resource depletion and soil quality), many of indicators have, as yet, not been tested and compared in LCA applications. The aim of this study is to test the different LCIA indicators in practice in a case study of beer production.Materials and methodsNine different indicators were selected to represent three different impact endpoints of land use: resource depletion, soil quality and biodiversity. The beer production system included all life cycle stages from barley cultivation and the production of energy and raw materials to the serving of beer at restaurant. Several optional system expansions were studied to estimate the possible impacts of substituting feed protein (soybean, rapeseed and silage) with mash coproduct from brewing. A comparison with wine production was also made for illustrative purposes.Results and discussionThe majority of the land use impacts occurred in the cultivation phase, but significant impacts were also found far down the supply chain. The system expansions influenced the overall results markedly, especially for land transformation, soil organic carbon (SOC) and several of the biodiversity indicators. Most of the land use indicators led to results that were consistent with each other. In the inventory and impact assessment phase, challenges were faced in obtaining reliable data. Additionally, the lack of reliable, regional characterization factors limits the usability of the land use indicators and the reliability of the LCIA results, especially of the SOC indicator. None of the studied indicators fulfills all the criteria for an effective ecological indicator, but most have many positive features.ConclusionsAll tested land use indicators were applicable in LCIA. Some indicators were found to be highly sensitive to assumptions on land transformation, which sets high requirements for LCI data quality. Scarcity of land use LCI data sources limits validation and cross-comparison. Interpretation of indicator results is complicated due to the limited understanding of the environmental impact pathways of land use.RecommendationsNone of the tested indicators describes the full range of environmental impacts caused by land use. We recommend presenting land occupation and transformation LCI results, the ecological footprint and at least one of the biodiversity indicators. Regarding soil quality, the lack of reliable regional data currently limits application of the proposed methods. The criteria of effective ecological indicators should be reflected in further work in indicator development. Development of regionalized characterization factors is of key importance to include land use in LCA.",
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Land use indicators in life cycle assessment : A case study on beer production. / Mattila, Tuomas; Helin, Tuomas (Corresponding Author); Antikainen, Riina.

In: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2012, p. 277-286.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Land use indicators in life cycle assessment

T2 - A case study on beer production

AU - Mattila, Tuomas

AU - Helin, Tuomas

AU - Antikainen, Riina

PY - 2012

Y1 - 2012

N2 - PurposeInclusion of land use-related environmental aspects into LCA methodology has been under active development in recent years. Although many indicators have been developed and proposed for different aspects of land use (climate change, biodiversity, resource depletion and soil quality), many of indicators have, as yet, not been tested and compared in LCA applications. The aim of this study is to test the different LCIA indicators in practice in a case study of beer production.Materials and methodsNine different indicators were selected to represent three different impact endpoints of land use: resource depletion, soil quality and biodiversity. The beer production system included all life cycle stages from barley cultivation and the production of energy and raw materials to the serving of beer at restaurant. Several optional system expansions were studied to estimate the possible impacts of substituting feed protein (soybean, rapeseed and silage) with mash coproduct from brewing. A comparison with wine production was also made for illustrative purposes.Results and discussionThe majority of the land use impacts occurred in the cultivation phase, but significant impacts were also found far down the supply chain. The system expansions influenced the overall results markedly, especially for land transformation, soil organic carbon (SOC) and several of the biodiversity indicators. Most of the land use indicators led to results that were consistent with each other. In the inventory and impact assessment phase, challenges were faced in obtaining reliable data. Additionally, the lack of reliable, regional characterization factors limits the usability of the land use indicators and the reliability of the LCIA results, especially of the SOC indicator. None of the studied indicators fulfills all the criteria for an effective ecological indicator, but most have many positive features.ConclusionsAll tested land use indicators were applicable in LCIA. Some indicators were found to be highly sensitive to assumptions on land transformation, which sets high requirements for LCI data quality. Scarcity of land use LCI data sources limits validation and cross-comparison. Interpretation of indicator results is complicated due to the limited understanding of the environmental impact pathways of land use.RecommendationsNone of the tested indicators describes the full range of environmental impacts caused by land use. We recommend presenting land occupation and transformation LCI results, the ecological footprint and at least one of the biodiversity indicators. Regarding soil quality, the lack of reliable regional data currently limits application of the proposed methods. The criteria of effective ecological indicators should be reflected in further work in indicator development. Development of regionalized characterization factors is of key importance to include land use in LCA.

AB - PurposeInclusion of land use-related environmental aspects into LCA methodology has been under active development in recent years. Although many indicators have been developed and proposed for different aspects of land use (climate change, biodiversity, resource depletion and soil quality), many of indicators have, as yet, not been tested and compared in LCA applications. The aim of this study is to test the different LCIA indicators in practice in a case study of beer production.Materials and methodsNine different indicators were selected to represent three different impact endpoints of land use: resource depletion, soil quality and biodiversity. The beer production system included all life cycle stages from barley cultivation and the production of energy and raw materials to the serving of beer at restaurant. Several optional system expansions were studied to estimate the possible impacts of substituting feed protein (soybean, rapeseed and silage) with mash coproduct from brewing. A comparison with wine production was also made for illustrative purposes.Results and discussionThe majority of the land use impacts occurred in the cultivation phase, but significant impacts were also found far down the supply chain. The system expansions influenced the overall results markedly, especially for land transformation, soil organic carbon (SOC) and several of the biodiversity indicators. Most of the land use indicators led to results that were consistent with each other. In the inventory and impact assessment phase, challenges were faced in obtaining reliable data. Additionally, the lack of reliable, regional characterization factors limits the usability of the land use indicators and the reliability of the LCIA results, especially of the SOC indicator. None of the studied indicators fulfills all the criteria for an effective ecological indicator, but most have many positive features.ConclusionsAll tested land use indicators were applicable in LCIA. Some indicators were found to be highly sensitive to assumptions on land transformation, which sets high requirements for LCI data quality. Scarcity of land use LCI data sources limits validation and cross-comparison. Interpretation of indicator results is complicated due to the limited understanding of the environmental impact pathways of land use.RecommendationsNone of the tested indicators describes the full range of environmental impacts caused by land use. We recommend presenting land occupation and transformation LCI results, the ecological footprint and at least one of the biodiversity indicators. Regarding soil quality, the lack of reliable regional data currently limits application of the proposed methods. The criteria of effective ecological indicators should be reflected in further work in indicator development. Development of regionalized characterization factors is of key importance to include land use in LCA.

KW - Beer

KW - biodiversity

KW - indicators

KW - land use

KW - LCA

KW - resource depletion

KW - soil quality

U2 - 10.1007/s11367-011-0353-z

DO - 10.1007/s11367-011-0353-z

M3 - Article

VL - 17

SP - 277

EP - 286

JO - International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

JF - International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

SN - 0948-3349

IS - 3

ER -