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Identifying marginal supplying countries of wood products via trade network analysis

Pizzol, Massimo, Scotti, Marco
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2017 v.22 no.7 pp. 1146-1158
consequential life cycle assessment, energy, inventories, markets, models, trade, wood products
PURPOSE: The consequential inventory modeling approach for life cycle assessment implies that an increase in the demand for a specific product is met by the marginal suppliers within the market. The identification of marginal suppliers is however complicated by difficulties in defining appropriate geographical market delimitations. In this study, an advanced system thinking approach is proposed to address this challenge in the identification of marginal supplying countries of wood products. METHODS: Groups of countries which represent geographical markets are identified from trade data by using a network analysis-based clustering technique. Within these markets, marginal supplying countries are selected based on positive historical increments. The analysis covers 12 different products and all countries in the world using trade data for the period 1998–2013. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Global indices allow differentiating how product-specific trade networks are separated into communities and how interconnected these networks are. Large differences between products and minor differences between trade years are observed. Communities identified for each product tend to overlap with existing geographical regions and seem thus realistic. By combining this information with product-specific production increment rankings, marginal supplying countries of wood products were identified. CONCLUSIONS: The identified geographical market delimitation is a key for proper consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) inventory modeling in areas such as timber-based construction and biomass-based energy production. The method can in principle be applied to any product for which trade network data are available and ideally should be accompanied by a detailed analysis of technological constrains within the identified supplying country.