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Global Land Use Accounting

Global land use accounting (GLUA) was developed to determine the global land use of a region or a country associated with the production and consumption of goods. As agricultural land use dominates overall land use, GLUA has thus far been used primarily to quantify the land use associated with agricultural goods (Bringezu et al. 2009c).

The GLUA method allows the global "gross production area" to be calculated; that is, the area needed for the production of certain domestically consumed goods (e.g., for the production of fuel crops used for the production of biodiesel from soya) (Bringezu et al. 2009c). Allocating the use of biomass to several purposes (e.g., soy bean oil for diesel or food and soy cake for feed), the "net consumption area" can be determined for all agricultural goods consumed in a country or region. GLUA specifies where in the world the land linked to the domestic consumption of goods is used: domestic or abroad. At the domestic level, the land used for the production of goods exported to other parts of the world is also considered.

Thus, similar to the material balance in economy-wide material flow analysis or the trade balance in conventional economic accounts, land use balance can be established. When time series elucidate a growing imbalance, this may indicate a problem shifting between regions. For example, if global net consumption area of crop land is increasing, this indicates that the consumption of that country exerts a growing pressure on the expansion of global crop land. GLUA cannot be used to quantify the final impacts on biodiversity or ecosystems, but it indicates a pressure toward this end and links this pressure to the driving forces in the production and consumption system of single countries.

At the same time, the different quality of land or intensities of land use need to be considered. In particular, cropland and pasture land differ significantly with regard to nature value (e.g., biodiversity) and local environmental pressure (e.g., leaching of nutrients from intensive farming). In many developing countries, permanent pastures are to a large extent less intensively managed than, for example, in Western Europe. Therefore, to compare regional land use with global availability or average use of different types of land, respectively, further research is required to derive GLUA from a more differentiated classifi cation of agricultural land according to comparable intensity of use. Future work should also apply the GLUA method to forestry land and, to this end, research will need to consider different qualities of forest land, including multifunctional usage.

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