Livestock, feed production and land use – an environmental assessment
Abstract: The use of land for agriculture contributes substantially to today’s global environmental challenges such as climate change, water and land degradation and biodiversity loss. Today, about 38% of the ice-free land surface on earth is used as agricultural land, with about 75% of agricultural land used to produce feed for livestock. A wealthier and growing world population will put even more pressure on agriculture, especially, demand for livestock products. To ensure an environmentally sustainable path for global agriculture, the amount of land devoted to feed production merits critical evaluation. The overall aim of this thesis, addressed in three papers, is to investigate different options for decreasing land use impacts of feed production, and in the process test various methods that can be used for such assessments. The first paper assesses the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and land use from livestock production in Sweden when using either imported or locally-grown protein-rich feedstuff. Using Life Cycle Assessment methodology, we find that Swedish livestock using the locally-grown feed could, under certain conditions, have lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, the lower emissions come at a cost of increasing land area required for feed production in Sweden. The second paper uses partial equilibrium analysis to investigate the impacts on global greenhouse gas emissions when imported protein-rich feed is substituted with locally-grown alternatives in Europe. We find that although Europe’s dependency on soybean imports from South America contributes to emissions from deforestation, feed substitution would not necessarily slow deforestation rates and may be a worse option from a GHG emission mitigation perspective. The third paper assesses the impacts of using land in Sweden for livestock production on a selection of ecosystem services, and critically evaluates methods proposed for land use impact assessments. We find that, generally, area-efficient animal-protein production would have less damage on ecosystem services. However, land management system and type of land used for production are important factors in determining impact on ecosystem services. The results are strongly influenced by the scale of assessment and it is important that methods available are further developed to support multi-scale assessments.
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