LCIA OF IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH AND ECOSYSTEMS
Comparing land use impacts using ecosystem quality, biogenic
carbon emissions, and restoration costs in a case study
of hydropower plants in Norway
Vilde Fluge Lillesund
David N. Barton
Received: 19 February 2016 /Accepted: 10 January 2017 /Published online: 27 January 2017
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
Purpose Habitat destruction is today the most severe threat to
global biodiversity. Despite decades of efforts, there is still no
proper methodology on how to assess all aspects of impacts
on biodiversity from land use and land use changes (LULUC)
in life cycle analysis (LCA). A majority of LCA studies on
land extensive activities still do not include LULUC. In this
study, we test different approaches for assessing the impact of
land use and land use change related to hydropower for use in
LCA and introduce restoration cost as a new approach.
Methods We assessed four hydropower plant projects in plan-
ning phase (two upgrading plants with reservoir and two new
run-of-river plants) in Southern Norway with comparable ge-
ography, biodiversity, and annual energy production capacity.
LULUC was calculated for each habitat type, based on map-
ping of present and future land use, and was further allocated
to energy production for each power plant. Three different
approaches to assess land use impact were included: ecosys-
tem scarcity/vulnerability, biogenic greenhouse gas (bGHG)
emissions, and the cost of restoring affected habitats.
Restoration cost represents a novel approach to LCA for mea-
suring impact of LULUC.
Results and discussion Overall, the three approaches give
similar rankings of impacts: larger impact for small and new
power plants and less for larger and expanding existing plants.
Reservoirs caused a larger total area affected. Permanent in-
frastructure has a more similar absolute impact for run-of-river
and reservoir-based hydropower, and consequently give rela-
tively larger impact for smaller run-of-river hydropower. All
approaches reveal impacts on wetland ecosystems as most
important relative to other ecosystems. The methods used
for all three approaches would benefit from higher resolution
data on land use, habitats, and soil types. Total restoration cost
is not accurate, due to uncertainty of offset ratios, but relative
restoration costs may still be used to rank restoration alterna-
tives and compare them to the costs of biodiversity offsets.
Conclusions The different approaches assess different aspects
of land use impacts, but they all show large variation of impact
between the studied hydropower plants, which shows the im-
portance of including LULUC in LCA for hydropower pro-
jects. Improved data of total restoration cost (and cost account-
ing) are needed to implement this approach in future LCA.
Keywords bGHG emission
Land use change impact
Life cycle assessment
Habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, invasive spe-
cies, and overexploitation of wild populations are the five
main threats to biodiversity, and of these, habitat destruction
is the most severe (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
Responsible editor: Thomas Koellner
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.1007/s11367-017-1263-5) contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized users.
* Dagmar Hagen
Department of Energy and Process Engineering, Industrial Ecology
Program, Norwegian University for Science and Technology,
7491 Trondheim, Norway
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, P.O. Box 5685, Sluppen,
7485 Trondheim, Norway
Norwegian University for Science and Technology, NTNU
Sustainability, 7491 Trondheim, Norway
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2017) 22:1384–1396