Spatially explicit LCA analysis of biodiversity losses due to different bioenergy policies in the European Union

Di Fulvio, F. ORCID:, Forsell, N., Korosuo, A., Obersteiner, M. ORCID:, & Hellweg, S. (2019). Spatially explicit LCA analysis of biodiversity losses due to different bioenergy policies in the European Union. Science of the Total Environment 651 1505-1516. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.419.

Di Fulvio et al Spatially explicit LCA analysis of biodiversity losses due to different bioenergy policies accepted version.pdf - Accepted Version
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Project: Effects of phosphorus limitations on Life, Earth system and Society (IMBALANCE-P, FP7 610028), Alternative models and robust decision-making for future forest management (ALTERFOR, H2020 676754)


In this study, the potential global loss of species directly associated with land use in the EU and due to trade with other regions is computed over time, in order to reveal differences in impacts between the considered alternatives of plausible bioenergy policies development in the EU.

The spatially explicit study combines a life cycle analysis (LCA) for biodiversity impact assessment with a global high resolution economic land use model. Both impacts of domestic land use and impacts through imports were included for estimating the biodiversity footprint of the member states of the (EU28). The analyzed scenarios assumed similar biomass demand until 2020 but differed thereafter, from keeping the growth of demand for bioenergy constant (CONST), to a strong increase of bioenergy in line with the EU target of decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 (EMIRED) and with the baseline (BASE) scenario falling between the other two.

As a general trend, the increasing demand for biomass was found to have substantial impact on biodiversity in all scenarios, while the differences between the scenarios were found to be modest. The share caused by imports was 15% of the overall biodiversity impacts detected in this study in the year 2000, and progressively increased to 24% to 26% in 2050, depending on the scenario. The most prominent future change in domestic land use in all scenarios was the expansion of perennial cultivations for energy. In the EMIRED scenario, there is a larger expansion of perennial cultivations and a smaller expansion of cropland in the EU than in the other two scenarios. As the biodiversity damage is smaller for land used for perennial cultivations than for cropland, this development decreases the internal biodiversity damage per unit of land. At the same time, however, the EMIRED scenario also features the largest outsourcing of damage, due to increased import of cropland products from outside the EU for satisfying the EU food demand. These two opposite effects even out each other, resulting in the total biodiversity damage for the EMIRED scenario being only slightly higher than the other two scenarios.

The results of this study indicate that increasing cultivation of perennials for bioenergy and the consequent decrease in the availability of cropland for food production in the EU may lead to outsourcing of agricultural products supply to other regions. This development is associated with a leakage of biodiversity damages to species-rich and vulnerable regions outside the EU.

In the case of a future increase in bioenergy demand, the combination of biomass supply from sustainable forest management in the EU, combined with imported wood pellets and cultivation of perennial energy crops, appears to be less detrimental to biodiversity than expansion of energy crops in the EU.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biodiversity damage; Bioenergy; Land use; Perennial energy; crops; Forestry; EU footprint; Trade
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018 06:07
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:30

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