Land-Use Change

Over the last centuries humans have transformed the worlds surface significantly by building more and more cities, but mostly by extending agriculture. These changes obviously have an impact on our climate, but also on biodiversity.

Transformation of land for agricultural use

A large part of the earth’s land surface has been modified by humans to accommodate our growing population, with major factors being increasing urbanization, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion. This transformation has an effect e.g. on our climate, as less carbon is being stored in natural land, and on biodiversity, as less natural habitat is available. As the agricultural sector is one of the main drivers of land use change, sustainable intensification by increasing yields on existing farmland is key to decrease the pressure to convert natural into arable land.

Land-use Change in AgBalance

Following the PEFCR recommendation the LANCA1 method is used in AgBalance to calculate the impact on land-use. This method consists of various indicator values based on ecosystem functions like: erosion, infiltration reduction, physicochemical filtration reduction, groundwater regeneration reduction and biotic production loss, given the land use type, time of use, area and site-specific conditions. 

In the case that not all data is accessible the SOM methodology can be chosen instead due to its simplicity. In this method Soil Organic Matter (SOM) is used as an indicator of life support functions, such as biotic production and climate regulation2. However, it does not reflect other soil functions, such as resistance to erosion3.

Soil data is needed to assess the impact on land-use. More details on the calculation methods can be found in the technical documentation that can be downloaded below.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Technial documentation

1 Beck, T., Bos, U., Wittstock, B., Baitz, M., Fischer, M., & Sedlbauer, K. (2016). LANCA® Land Use Indicator Value Calculation in Life Cycle Assessment – Method Report. Echterdingen: Fraunhofer Verlag.

2 Milà i Canals, L., Romanyà, J., & Cowell, S. (2007). Method for assessing impacts on life support functions (LSF) related to the use of ‘fertile land’ in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(15), 1426-1440.

3 Vidal-Legaz, B., Sala, S., Antón, A., Maia De Souza, D., Nocita, M., Putman, B., & Teixeira, R. (2016). Land-use related environmental indicators for Life Cycle Assessment. JRC Technical report.