Biodiversity in LCA

Biodiversity together with global warming and impacts caused by emissions of nitrogen compoundswas back in 2009 identified as the most important areas of concern for the sustainable future of humankind (Rockström et al., 2009). Now, the decline of biodiversity in the world is high on the political agenda as our livelihoods and well-being all depend on healthy ecosystems and recent studies report that global biodiversity is declining at rates unprecedented in human history (Dasgupta, 2021; IPBES, 2019). Thus, when assessing environmental impact of products and systems, including biodiversity impacts are of high importance.

Research to develop a suitable method to include biodiversity in life cycle assessment (LCA) has been and is on-going. However, the current Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methods do not include an impact category named «biodiversity”. However an assessment of the relevance of biodiversity when developing a PEFCR shall be made and if biodiversity is relevant, then a description shall be included of how this biodiversity impact shall be assessed (European Comission, 2018). Suggestions are to use a certification scheme as proxy or to state how much of the materials in the study that comes from ecosystems where biodiversity is maintained and/or are increased, and to set a level of how much the biodiversity can be affected, e.g. 15% loss of species richness due to disturbance. It would be beneficial for the comparability of PEF studies if one method were used for biodiversity instead of having the option to choose method. There are working groups set up by the European commission that is currently reviewing biodiversity methods with the aim to recommend an approach to be included in the PEF guidelines.

The report is prepared by the NordPEF group and briefly reviews the ongoing work on biodiversity methods for inclusion in LCA and include case studies from the Nordic countries using some of these methods. The benefits and drawbacks with the methods and suggest improvements from a Nordic perspective is also included, however not on detailed methodological level. The NordPEF group works on issues regarding the implementation of Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) in agricultural sector in the Nordics. The group consist of Anna Woodhouse, RISE (Sweden); Sanna Hietala, LUKE (Finland); Troels Kristensen, Aarhus University (Denmark) and Hanne Møller, NORSUS
(Norway). The work is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministries and national ministries (MMM/FI) and environmental protection agencies (EPA/SWE) via the Nordic Environmental Footprint (NEF) group. This report is not exhaustive within this topic and descriptions are based on experiences that the participants of the group have as LCA practitioners.



Katri Joensuu, LUUK