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Accounting for time-dependent changes in GHG emissions in the Ribeiro appellation (NW Spain): Are land use changes an important driver?

Villanueva-Rey, Pedro, Vázquez-Rowe, Ian, Otero, Marta, Moreira, María Teresa, Feijoo, Gumersindo
Environmental Science and Policy 2015 v.51 pp. 215-227
afforestation, energy, environmental impact, exports, fertilizers, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, intensive farming, land use change, life cycle assessment, plant protection, production technology, surface area, vineyards, viticulture, wine industry, wines, Spain
Land use changes (LUCs) constitute a crucial source of environmental impact in production systems, which are mostly associated with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This circumstance is especially important for the agricultural sector, since these imply an important proportion of the total GHG emissions occurring worldwide. Wine and grape production is a key sector in Spain, representing the largest surface area at European level. In the past decades, important wine related LUCs have been observed due to changes in farming methods/type, number of Denominations of Origin, and the establishment of larger wineries that have enhanced exports. The current study presents a temporally based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of the Ribeiro appellation in NW Spain, in which the gradual changes in the land use, as well as the technological improvements are analyzed in detail in order to understand how the environmental profile of this specific wine producing area has shifted in the past two decades (i.e., from 1990 to 2009). On the one hand, phenomena such as afforestation and agricultural intensification are analyzed throughout the appellation to estimate the impact due to GHG emissions linked to LUCs, based on IPCC standards. On the other hand, trends linked to technological improvements, operational changes, such as changes in the use and management of plant protection agents or fertilizers or the change in the energy sources for machinery on the vineyards, were assessed in detail.