Research on methodologies for impact assessment on biodiversity - the case of bio based products
Licentiate thesis, 2015
The topic of this thesis is impact assessment on biodiversity in life cycle assessment (LCA).
With humans in focus, we need the earth’s resources and its biodiversity for our existence and human well-being may depend on the management of the earth’s resources. The earth, however, does not need humans to continue its existence.
Considering the last fifty years, humans have contributed to land degradation and changes in ecosystems, including biodiversity loss, at a speed never experienced before (MA, 2005). The acquisition of earth’s resources is often accompanied with impact on e.g. land used, which may have positive or negative impact on biodiversity. One way to assess impact on land used and hence biodiversity, is by the use of life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). This thesis presents a literature overview on LCIA methods on biodiversity with potential use in LCAs for bio based products and discusses challenges met when applying two selected LCIA methods on biodiversity on local and regional level.
Focusing on the two case studies being part of my thesis, on forestry in southern Sweden and the results gained. The results showed that a number of methodological adjustments and decisions had to be made pertaining available data and suitable format on data sets. Also, the interpretation of definitions on reference situations showed to be problematic, since ecosystems are dynamic but the definitions on reference situations are not. The choice of reference situation, and when in the production cycle assessment was made, led to differences in the categorization factors generated. This indicate that biodiversity may not remain constant during the occupational land use phase and that the choice of reference situation is important.
The results of the literature overview indicate that we see a clear trend towards diversification in the field, choice of indicator, modelling and reference situation. The diversification can be seen as an attempt to better match the diversity of the biodiversity concept itself. However, there is a risk that the level of methodological diversity needed for this purpose will lead to an overwhelming need for on the one hand decisions to be made by the LCA practitioner, and on the other hand for data accessible databases.
Keywords: life cycle impact assessment