An improved life cycle impact assessment principle for assessing the impact of land use on ecosystem services

Benoit Othoniel*, Benedetto Rugani, Reinout Heijungs, M. Beyer, Miriam Machwitz, Pim Post

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In order to consider the effects of land use, and the land cover changes it causes, on ecosystem services in life cycle assessment (LCA), a new methodology is proposed and applied to calculate midpoint and endpoint characterization factors. To do this, a cause-effect chain was established in line with conceptual models of ecosystem services to describe the impacts of land use and related land cover changes. A high-resolution, spatially explicit and temporally dynamic modeling framework that integrates land use and ecosystem services models was developed and used as an impact characterization model to simulate that cause-effect chain. Characterization factors (CFs) were calculated and regionalized at the scales of Luxembourg and its municipalities, taken as a case to show the advantages of the modeling approach. More specifically, the calculated CFs enable the impact assessment of six land cover types on six ecosystem functions and two final ecosystem services. A mapping and comparison exercise of these CFs allowed us to identify spatial trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services due to possible land cover changes. Ultimately, the proposed methodology can offer a solution to overcome a number of methodological limitations that still exist in the characterization of impacts on ecosystem services in LCA, implying a rethinking of the modeling of land use in life cycle inventory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133374
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date13 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2019


  • Characterization factor
  • Ecosystem services
  • Integrated modeling
  • Land use
  • Life cycle assessment


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