Farmland biodiversity in life cycle assessment


Agriculture bears a high responsibility for the diversity of wild plant and animal species. Each individual activity performed by the farmer on his land, such as meadow mowing, pesticide application and tillage, has an effect on biodiversity. To give an example, 4 to 5 cuts on a meadow per year have a very negative effect on the species diversity of butterflies. Although the numerous individual effects on specific groups of plant and animal species are often well known, the overall effect on biodiversity of agricultural systems and farms is little known.

Agroscope has therefore developed a model based on the life cycle assessment (LCA) approach; it is part of the SALCA methods (Swiss Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment). To this end, our researchers have gathered individual effects in a model on 11 selected biodiversity indicators. This enables us to compare agricultural systems and farms in terms of their effects, as well as to make predictions on the impact of changes in management on biodiversity.

The model will be used from 2012 as an agroenvironmental indicator in the form of an index. The potential effect of agricultural activities on biodiversity for a selection of farms throughout Switzerland will be calculated on a regular basis. In this way, part of Swiss agriculture’s contribution to sustainability will be assessed.