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The challenges of including impacts on biodiversity in agricultural life cycle assessments

Gabel, Vanessa M., Meier, Matthias S., Köpke, Ulrich, Stolze, Matthias
Journal of environmental management 2016 v.181 pp. 249-260
agricultural products, biodiversity, life cycle assessment, production technology
Agriculture is considered to be one of the main drivers for worldwide biodiversity loss but the impacts of agricultural production on biodiversity have not been extensively considered in Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs). Recent realisation that biodiversity impact should be included in comprehensive LCAs has led to attempts to develop and implement methods for biodiversity impact assessment. In this review, twenty-two different biodiversity impact assessment methods have been analysed to identify their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their comprehensiveness in the evaluation of agricultural products. Different criteria, which had to meet the specific requirements of biodiversity research, life cycle assessment methodology, and the evaluation of agricultural products, were selected to investigate the identified methods. Very few of the methods were developed with the specific intention of being used for agricultural LCAs. Furthermore, none of the methods can be applied globally while at the same time being able to differentiate between various agricultural intensities. Global value chains and the increasing awareness of different biodiversity impacts of agricultural production systems demand the development of evaluation methods that are able to overcome these shortcomings. Despite the progress that has already been achieved, there are still unresolved difficulties which need further research and improvement.