Quantification and valuation of ecosystem services in life cycle assessment: Application of the cascade framework to rice farming systems

Xinyu Liu, Bhavik R. Bakshi*, Benedetto Rugani, Danielle Maia de Souza, Jane Bare, John M. Johnston, Alexis Laurent, Francesca Verones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The integration of ecosystem service (ES) assessment with life cycle assessment (LCA) is important for developing decision support tools for environmental sustainability. A prequel study has proposed a 4-step methodology that integrates the ES cascade framework within the cause-effect chain of life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) to characterize the physical and monetary impacts on ES provisioning due to human interventions. We here follow the suggested steps in the abovementioned study, to demonstrate the first application of the integrated ES-LCIA methodology and the added value for LCA studies, using a case study of rice farming in the United States, China, and India. Four ES are considered, namely carbon sequestration, water provisioning, air quality regulation, and water quality regulation. The analysis found a net negative impact for rice farming systems in all three rice producing countries, meaning the detrimental impacts of rice farming on ES being greater than the induced benefits on ES. Compared to the price of rice sold in the market, the negative impacts represent around 2%, 6%, and 4% of the cost of 1 kg of rice from China, India, and the United States, respectively. From this case study, research gaps were identified in order to develop a fully operationalized ES-LCIA integration. With such a framework and guidance in place, practitioners can more comprehensively assess the impacts of life cycle activities on relevant ES provisioning, in both physical and monetary terms. This may in turn affect stakeholders' availability to receive such benefits from ecosystems in the long run.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141278
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Cascade model
  • Cause-effect chain
  • Ecosystem services
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA)
  • Rice farming

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