678 research outputs found

    Sustainable Development within Planetary Boundaries: A Functional Revision of the Definition Based on the Thermodynamics of Complex Social-Ecological Systems

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    The dominant paradigm of sustainable development (SD) where the environment is just the third pillar of SD has proven inadequate to keep humanity within the safe operational space determined by biophysical planetary boundaries. This implies the need for a revised definition compatible with a nested model of sustainable development, where humanity forms part of the overall social-ecological system, and that would allow more effective sustainable development goals and indicators. In this paper an alternative definition is proposed based on the thermodynamics of open systems applied to ecosystems and human systems. Both sub- systems of the global social-ecological system show in common an increased capability of buffering against disturbances as a consequence of an internal increase of order. Sustainable development is considered an optimization exercise at different scales in time and space based on monitoring the change in the exergy content and exergy dissipation of these two sub- systems of the social-ecological system. In common language it is the increase of human prosperity and well-being without loss of the structure and functioning of the ecosystem. This definition is functional as it allows the straightforward selection of quantitative indicators, discerning sustainable development from unsustainable development, unsustainable stagnation and sustainable retreat. The paper shows that the new definition is compatible with state of the art thinking on ecosystem services, the existence of regime shifts and societal transitions, and resilience. One of the largest challenges in applying the definition is our insufficient understanding of the change in ecosystem structure and function as an endpoint indicator of human action, and its effect on human prosperity and well-being. This implies the continued need to use midpoint indicators of human impact and related thresholds defining the safe operating space of the present generation with respect to future generations. The proposed definition can be considered a valuable complement to the recently emerged nested system discourse of sustainable development, by offering a more quantitative tool to monitor and guide the transition of human society towards a harmonious relationship with the rest of the biosphere

    Proposing a life cycle land use impact calculation methodology

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    The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) community is yet to come to a consensus on a methodology to incorporate land use in LCA, still struggling with what exactly should be assessed and which indicators should be used. To solve this problem we start from concepts and models describing how ecosystems function and sustain, in order to understand how land use affects them. Earlier our research group presented a methodology based on the ecosystem exergy concept. This concept as based on the hypothesis that ecosystems develop towards more effective degradation of exergy fluxes passing through the system and is derived from two axioms: the principles of (i) maximum exergy storage and the (ii) maximum exergy dissipation. This concept aiming at the area of protection natural environment is different from conventional exergy analysis in LCA focusing on natural resources. To prevent confusion, the ecosystem exergy concept is further referred to as the MAximum Storage and Dissipation concept (MASD concept). In this paper we present how this concept identifies end-point impacts, mid-point impacts and mid-point indicators. The identified end-point impacts to assess are Ecosystem Structural Quality (ESQ) and Ecosystem Functional Quality (EFQ). In order to quantify these end-point impacts a dynamic multi-indicator set is proposed for quantifying the mid-point impacts on soil fertility, biodiversity and biomass production (quantifying the ESQ) and soil structure, vegetation structure and on-site water balance (quantifying the EFQ). Further we present an impact calculation method suitable for different environmental assessment tools and demonstrate the incorporation of the methodology in LCA

    Use of inadequate data and methodological errors lead to a dramatic overestimation of the water footprint of Jatropha curcas

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    In their recent article, Gerbens-Leenes et al. (1) calculated the water footprint (WF, the amount of water required to produce 1 GJ of energy) of several bioenergy crops. One of the most remarkable findings of this study was the very high water footprint of this species, which has serious management consequences. 

However, these results are in apparent contrast with recent findings on this species. We present evidence that several errors were made by the authors when calculating the water footprint of jatropha, which has lead to a dramatic overestimation. These errors include weaknesses concerning the data used for the calculation of the water footprint, as well as flaws in the calculation method, as we demonstrate in the letter. Based on peer-reviewed data, we furthermore provide a more correct, still rough, first estimate for the water footprint of this species, which would place it amongst the more water efficient bioenergy crops. 


    A Sustainability Framework for Enhancing the Long-Term Success of LULUCF Projects

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    Collateral impacts of LULUCF projects, especially those concerning social and environmental aspects, have been recognised as important by the Marrakech Accords. The same applies to the necessity of assessing and, if possible, of quantifying the magnitude of these impacts. This article aims to define, clarify and structure the relevant social, economic and environmental issues to be addressed and to give examples of indicators that ought to be included in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and ex post evaluation of LULUCF projects. This is being done by providing a conceptual framework for the assessment of the sustainability of such projects that can be used as a checklist when dealing with concrete projects, and that in principle is applicable to both Annex I and non-Annex I countries. Finally, a set of recommendations is provided to further develop and promote the proposed framework.LULUCF projects, CDM, Kyoto Protocol, Sustainability, Socio-economic impacts, Environmental impacts

    Potential pathways of indole acetic acid (IAA) biosynthesis in Euphorbia abyssinica

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    Desert candle (_Euphorbia abyssinica_ J.F. Gmel.) (further referred to as EAG) is a succulent tree of dry deciduous and evergreen montane forest, woodland and shrub savanna. It occurs widely throughout dryland Africa, where it is appreciated as a live fence because it is easily propagated from untreated mature branch cuttings.
Earlier we argued that the ability of large EAG branches to regenerate with ease in dry soil may be related to the natural plant growth regulator hormone indole acetic acid (IAA) contained in the latex of the plant. EAG latex samples from northern Ethiopia (n = 3) that were chemically analyzed contained on average 0.06 mg/l latex, as well as the IAA metabolites indole lactate (ILA) and indole ethanol (IEt). One sample also contained IAA conjugated to amino-acids and to glucose. Here we present a schematic overview of the potential pathways of IAA biosynthesis in EAG and suggest that auxin biosynthesis in EAG is tryptophane (Trp) dependent
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