Building consensus on how to address the analysis of ecosystem services in the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework

Benedetto Rugani, Danielle Maia de Souza, Xinyu Liu, Bhavik R. Bakshi, Bo Pedersen Weidema, Jane Bare, Blane Grann, Ana Laura Raymundo Pavan, Alexis Laurent, Francesca Verones

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    The assessment of ecosystem services (ES) is fragmentally covered by existing environmental decision support tools that aim to inform on the potential environmental impacts of supply chains and their products, such as the well-known life cycle assessment (LCA) method. Under the frame of the UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative flagship project on life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) indicators, a dedicated subtask force was constituted to consolidate the evaluation of ES in LCA. As an outcome of the activities promoted by this subtask force, the present contribution aims to illustrate the progress towards consensus building in the LCA domain concerning the assessment of human related impacts on ecosystems and their capacity to provide services for human well-being. First, the study proposes a general framework for integrating ES approaches into the cause-effect chain used in LCIA, designed according to a cascade model for ES. Then, an application of the proposed LCIA framework is shown through a case study on rice production modelled for three different locations in the world (i.e. USA, China, India). The cascade model, used here to depict LCIA cause-effect chains, is formulated according to sound scientific arguments grounded on the ES literature, which relate the effect of changes on ecosystems due to human impacts (e.g. land use changes, eutrophication, freshwater depletion, …) with the increase or decrease in the quality and/or quantity of supplied ES. These impacts and damages are reflected into specific areas of protection for natural resources and ecosystem quality, and eventually back on the technosphere system in the form of costs or benefits associated with the functional unit (produced rice in this specific case). Based on this experience, a set of recommendations is provided on how to address current gaps in the analysis of ES within the LCA framework.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBook of abstract for ESP Europe 2018 Regional Conference
    Publication date2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventESP Europe 2018 Regional Conference - San Sebastián, Spain
    Duration: 15 Oct 201819 Oct 2018


    ConferenceESP Europe 2018 Regional Conference
    CitySan Sebastián


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