How can the impact of food production on biodiversity be measured?
Methods to measure the impact of food production and consumption on biodiversity are currently neither established nor fully developed. This makes it difficult for companies to integrate biodiversity into product development and supplier management. Two major drivers of biodiversity loss still need to be addressed:
- How can the primarily scientific methods be transferred into business practice?
- How can knowledge of normative values be integrated into the method?
- How can impacts on aquatic biodiversity be measured?
- How can diffuse influences that are not directly caused by land use, e.g. the rapid shift in climatic boundary conditions, be integrated into existing impact assessments?
Module 2 starts at this point and aims to test the existing biodiversity impact assessment method according to Lindner et al. (2019) (2019) in collaboration with the cooperating companies (FRoSTA, Ritter Sport, Seeberger) with regard to its practical suitability. In iterative processes, the terrestrial biodiversity impact assessment method will be optimised with regard to applicability and user-friendliness, in order to ensure the claim of an easily applicable and at the same time scientifically substantiated method. Simultaneously, the impact assessment method, which has so far been limited to terrestrial biodiversity, will be further developed. On the one hand, the biodiversity effects of diffuse effects that arise from non-point or non-surface pressures are integrated. Furthermore, the impact assessment method is extended to include the dimension of aquatic biodiversity. This paves the way for a holistic biodiversity impact assessment method that is scientifically validated and tested in a practical environment.
Factsheet for corporations “Impact Assessment of Land Using Processes on Biodiversity ”
The basis: impact assessment method for terrestrial biodiversity
The method by Lindner et al. (2019) (2019)to estimate impacts on biodiversity in the context of a product life cycle assessment is the basis for the method development in BioVal.
The method for estimating biodiversity impacts assumes that an area of land on which agriculture is practised, for example, provides a habitat for various animal and plant species. The condition of the area in some way represents the quality of the habitat and is thereby related to the degree of existing and potential biodiversity on this area. The better the condition of the area, the higher the biodiversity potential. Every intervention, e.g. by tilling the soil or using fertilisers or pesticides, has an influence on the condition of the area or habitat under consideration. But factors that are not obvious, e.g. structural elements, i.e. elements that give structure to the area and thus also provide habitats for various animal and plant species, also have an influence on biodiversity. These so-called management parameters thus determine in a certain way the influence of a land-use process, e.g. the cultivation of sugar beet, on biodiversity.
The method according to Lindner et al. (2019) (2019) makes it possible to quantify these influences with the help of a calculation model developed over many years and to summarise them into a local biodiversity value. The local biodiversity value depends both on the characteristics of the management parameters and on the type of land use (e.g. cropland, pasture, mining).
Since the different regions of the world have fundamentally different levels of biodiversity due to their biogeographical conditions, a land-use process in regions with high biodiversity has a greater global impact than in regions with low biodiversity. This global “weighting” is integrated on the basis of ecoregions, i.e. regions that share similar biogeographical characteristics. Each of the more than 800 ecoregions is assigned an “ecoregion factor”. This weighting is particularly relevant in global value chains.
What actually is life cycle assessment?
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for the holistic analysis of potential environmental impacts of products, processes, procedures or services. LCA is increasingly used in environmental management and can be applied along the entire life cycle (or parts of it) to improve products in terms of their environmental impact and to optimise processes.
Well-known environmental impact categories are, for example, climate change, in which the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the amplification of radiative forcing by absorbed infrared radiation in the atmosphere are recorded. This enhancement of radiative forcing leads to an increase in the Earth’s temperature, commonly referred to as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is usually determined over a period of 100 years and expressed in CO2 equivalents. In addition to climate change, there are a number of other environmental impact categories, such as acidification or resource depletion.
Impact assessments on biodiversity are still under development.
Diffuse effects – supplementing the impact assessment of terrestrial biodiversity
In addition to direct biodiversity impacts, which are caused, for example, by the type of land management, there are also a number of biodiversity impacts that cannot be directly attributed to a point source. One example is the greenhouse effect and the associated climate change. Among other things, climate change is causing climate zones to shift and cold-adapted species to come under increasing pressure. Warming due to climate change is occurring faster than species can genetically adapt or migrate with the temperature shift. The emission of greenhouse gases therefore has an indirect influence on biodiver-sity, and it makes little difference where the climate-altering gases are emitted. Other effects are more global or diffuse, for example the input of nitrogen from the air or the large-scale fragmentation of habitats by roads or other barriers.
Most of these effects can already be calculated using other methods. In BioVal, elements of existing methods are used and incorporated into the existing calculation model.
Aquatic biodiversity impact assessment method
The current method for calculating biodiversity impacts can so far only be applied to production processes that take place on a land surface. However, many production processes, such as the production of fish from aquacultures, take place in aquatic ecosystems. The limitation of the methodology is related to the lack of a definition of suitable land use classes (e.g. aquaculture, shipping) and associated management parameters, as well as to the calculation structure, which has not yet been adapted for these purposes.
In order to extend the current method for calculating the biodiversity impact to aquatic biodiversity (marine and limnic), a suitable basic structure is being created in BioVal. In analogy to land use classes, delimitable water use classes are defined (e.g. fishery, aquaculture, tourism) and a list of relevant parameters is developed for each class (e.g. mesh size of nets, antibiotics in aquaculture).
In this way, the assessment of the biodiversity impact can also be carried out on water bodies.
Two workshops with external experts will be held as part of the method development. In addition, input from the living labs and the biodiversity working group will be taken up. The EU Joint Research Center and the UN Life Cycle Initiative will also be involved in method development.