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Indicators of resource use such as material and energy flow accounts, emission data and the ecological footprint inform societies about their performance by evaluating resource use efficiency and the effectiveness of sustainability policies. The human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP) is an indicator of land-use intensity on each nation’s territory used in research as well as in environmental reports. ‘Embodied HANPP’ (eHANPP) measures the HANPP anywhere on earth resulting from a nation’s domestic biomass consumption. The objectives of this article are (i) to study the relation between eHANPP and other resource use indicators and (ii) to analyse socioeconomic and natural determinants of global eHANPP patterns in the year 2000. We discuss a statistical analysis of >140 countries aiming to better understand these relationships. We found that indicators of material and energy throughput, fossil-energy related CO2 emissions as well as the ecological footprint are highly correlated with each other as well as with GDP, while eHANPP is neither correlated with other resource use indicators nor with GDP, despite a strong correlation between final biomass consumption and GDP. This can be explained by improvements in agricultural efficiency associated with GDP growth. Only about half of the variation in eHANPP can be explained by differences in national land-use systems, suggesting a considerable influence of trade on eHANPP patterns. eHANPP related with biomass trade can largely be explained by differences in natural endowment, in particular the availability of productive area. We conclude that eHANPP can deliver important complimentary information to indicators that primarily monitor socioeconomic metabolism.

Ecological Indicators, vol. 23(3), December 2012, pp. 222-231