In a previous study, the global agricultural expansion caused by wheat consumption in four different countries was modelled with the aim of establishing land use life cycle inventories. The previous study estimated the areas affected by expansion (in terms of square meters) but did not explain how to characterise these areas. The present study ascribes so-called biomes (natural potential vegetation) to the areas affected by agricultural expansion in order to provide a basis for assessing the environmental impacts from land use in the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). The methodology builds on agricultural statistics and maps of global agricultural areas and the global distribution of biomes. The application of the method is illustrated with four examples. The results indicate that agricultural expansion on land suited for crop cultivation (cultivable land) typically affects forest biomes or potential grassland/steppe, whereas expansion on land suited for grazing but not for crop cultivation (grazable land) typically occurs on potential shrubland or a few other biomes depending on the region. Some uncertainty applies to the results but it is concluded that it is feasible to identify biomes affected by agricultural expansion and that the biomes can therefore be used as a starting point for land use LCIA. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Cleaner Production, 2009, Vol 17, Issue 4, p. 463-470