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Keywords:

  • bioenergy;
  • environmental impact assessment;
  • forest management;
  • industrial ecology;
  • life cycle assessment (LCA);
  • methods

Summary

There is a strong need for methods within life cycle assessment (LCA) that enable the inclusion of all complex aspects related to land use and land use change (LULUC). This article presents a case study of the use of one hectare (ha) of forest managed for the production of wood for bioenergy production. Both permanent and temporary changes in above-ground biomass are assessed together with the impact on biodiversity caused by LULUC as a result of forestry activities. The impact is measured as a product of time and area requirements, as well as by changes in carbon pools and impacts on biodiversity as a consequence of different management options. To elaborate the usefulness of the method as well as its dependency on assumptions, a range of scenarios are introduced in the study. The results show that the impact on climate change from LULUC dominates the results, compared to the impact from forestry operations. This clearly demonstrates the need to include LULUC in an LCA of forestry products. For impacts both on climate change and biodiversity, the results show large variability based on what assumptions are made; and impacts can be either positive or negative. Consequently, a mere measure of land used does not provide any meaning in LCA, as it is not possible to know whether this contributes a positive or negative impact.