Coupling LCA and GIS for biodiversity assessments of forest resource based bioethanol production

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Research Details

Life cycle assessments of product systems or changes in product systems are supposed to be comprehensive, i.e. include all relevant life cycle stages and environmental concerns. There is widespread agreement that assessing impacts from land use, in particular on biodiversity, is therefore an important part of LCA. This is particularly true for forest and agricultural based product systems. At the same time, biodiversity is one of the least mature impact categories in LCA. In part, this is caused by the fact that the computational structure of inventory modeling and impact assessment is typically non-spatial, while biodiversity assessments require the collection and analysis of spatial data.

In order to advance theory and practice of biodiversity assessments within LCA, we want to develop a framework for the coupling of LCA and GIS, and apply this to FBRI biorefinery system. We will study biofuel production from different energy tree crops and for a range of total output levels. Soil information will be combined with other data to generate spatially explicit and non-linear process inventories for all fuel crop production scenarios. The biodiversity assessments of the fuel crop production scenarios will be based on spatially explicit habitat information for native terrestrial vertebrates. Different biodiversity impact indicators will be calculated based on biodiversity concepts such as species richness and evenness, and habitat naturalness and rarity. We will use biodiversity indicators to study the trade-offs between biodiversity and other impact categories, such as climate change.