The best impact assessment developments of 2019: impact pathways

At PRé, we are always keeping an eye on what impact assessment methodology developers are doing to make LCA even more reliable. In this 4-part series, we share with you the highlights of developments on a variety of topics: spatial differentiation, impact pathways, agricultural modelling and more. In this part 2, we discuss the 2019 developments in impact pathways. This article was written by Laura Golsteijn with contributions from Benedetto Rugani and Francesca Verones.

Improved approach for the impact of land use on ecosystem services

Dutch and Luxembourg researchers have developed an integrated modelling approach for quantifying midpoint and endpoint characterisation factors for land-use impacts on ecosystem services. The method integrates land use and ecosystem models at a high resolution and high level of spatial and temporal detail. The researchers validated their methodology in several Luxembourg cases, to identify spatial trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services due to possible land cover changes.

Enhanced reliability for freshwater ecotoxicity

Through a combination of different in silico methods, a group of researchers from the HORIZON2020 RELIEF project came up with reliable and representative predictions of freshwater ecotoxicological hazardous concentrations. This avoids the need for additional measured data. This approach can be particularly useful when prioritising chemicals lacking experimental ecotoxicological information, as long as they are within the applicability domains of the models used. 

New methodology for impacts from hydropower production

Although hydropower is a very important source of energy and crucial for combatting climate change, hydropower installations potentially damage biodiversity and ecosystems. Therefore, researchers from NTNU and NINA (both in Norway) have been working on inventory and impact assessment for the net water consumption of Norwegian hydropower reservoirs and related land occupation. Characterisation factors for the loss of land due to flooding and a global case study are currently under review.

Integration of marine impacts into LCA

With support from the Life Cycle Initiative and FSLCI, a working group called MariLCA is aiming to integrate marine impacts into LCA, with the first focus on marine plastics. Plastics in the ocean are currently receiving much public attention. Effects range from entanglement and ingestion to smothering of the environment. In their first short article, MariLCA researchers propose a model for entanglement in marine plastics and discuss the model’s limitations and improvement needs. Additional papers are in preparation.

Characterisation of noise impacts from personal land-based mobility

By combining the existing noise characterisation model N-LCA with the large transport simulation model MATSim and applying that to Switzerland, noise experts came up with a consumption-based noise footprint for Switzerland: the total noise and impacts that are caused by the private mobility demand of Swiss citizens. Their results confirmed that road transportation is the largest contributor to the total noise footprint of land-based mobility. They also included a scenario of full transition to electrified cars, which showed a potential noise impact reduction by about 55%, particularly in urban areas.

If you are interested in reading more about any of these developments, follow the links or contact us. Are you a researcher working on something that might be relevant to share? We are always happy to hear about new developments, so do not hesitate to reach out.

Stay tuned for the other parts in the series. Next topic: agricultural assessments.

Previous parts: 

Laura Golsteijn

Senior Consultant

I am eager to increase the environmental awareness of our society, and I believe that everyone can contribute to a more sustainable world, every day. At PRé we provide companies with both the knowledge and the tools to improve their products and services. I am excited to work for an organisation that is involved in developing sustainable initiatives.

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