Quantifying the global cropland footprint of the European Union’s non-food bioeconomy

Bruckner, M., Häyhä, T. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9462-0408, Giljum, S., Maus, V. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7385-4723, Fischer, G., Tramberend, S. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7024-1075, & Boerner, J. (2019). Quantifying the global cropland footprint of the European Union’s non-food bioeconomy. Environmental Research Letters 14 e045011. 10.1088/1748-9326/ab07f5.

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A rapidly growing share of global agricultural areas is devoted to the production of biomass for non-food purposes. The expanding non-food bioeconomy can have far-reaching social and ecological implications; yet, the non-food sector has attained little attention in land footprint studies. This paper provides the first assessment of the global cropland footprint of non-food products of the European Union (EU), a globally important region regarding its expanding bio-based economy. We apply a novel hybrid land flow accounting model, combining the biophysical trade model LANDFLOW with the multi-regional input-output model EXIOBASE. The developed hybrid approach improves the level of product and country detail, while comprehensively covering all global supply chains from agricultural production to final consumption, including highly-processed products, such as many non-food products. The results highlight the EU's role as a major processing and the biggest consuming region of cropland-based non-food products while at the same time relying heavily on imports. Two thirds of the cropland required to satisfy the EU's non-food biomass consumption are located in other world regions, particularly in China, the US and Indonesia, giving rise to potential impacts on distant ecosystems. With almost 39% in 2010, oilseeds used to produce for example biofuels, detergents and polymers represented the dominant share of the EU's non-food cropland demand. Traditional non-food biomass uses, such as fibre crops for textiles and animal hides and skins for leather products, also contributed notably (22%). Our findings suggest that if the EU Bioeconomy Strategy is to support global sustainable development, a detailed monitoring of land use displacement and spillover effects is decisive for targeted and effective EU policy making.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: bioeconomy, land footprint, non-food, multi-regional input–output, hybrid accounting, European Union
Research Programs: Water (WAT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2019 11:29
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:31
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/15820

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