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Accounting for the occupation of the marine environment as a natural resource in life cycle assessment: an exergy based approach
Taelman, S.E.; De Meester, S.; Schaubroeck, T.; Sakshaug, E; Alvarenga, F; Dewulf, J. (2014). Accounting for the occupation of the marine environment as a natural resource in life cycle assessment: an exergy based approach. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 91: 1-10.
In: Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0921-3449; e-ISSN 1879-0658, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Net primary production; Life cycle assessment; Exergy; Marineenvironment

Authors  Top 
  • Taelman, S.E., more
  • De Meester, S., more
  • Schaubroeck, T., more
  • Sakshaug, E
  • Alvarenga, F
  • Dewulf, J., more

    The human population is rising and the availability of terrestrial land and its resources are finite and, perhaps, not sufficient to deliver enough food, energy, materials and space. Thus, it is important to (further) explore and exploit the marine environment which covers no less than 71% of the earth's surface. The marine environment is very complex but can roughty be divided into two systems: natural (e.g. wild fishing) and human-made (e.g. artificial islands). In this study, characterization factors (CF) for natural and human-made marine systems were calculated in order to be able to assess the environmental impact of occupying marine surfaces, which was not possible so far in life cycle assessment. When accounting for natural resources while occupying one of these systems, it is important to consider the primary resources that are actually deprived from nature, which differs between the natural and human-made marine systems. In natural systems, the extracted biomass was accounted for through its exergy content, which is the maximum quantity of work that the system can execute in its environment. Reference flows for marine fish, seaweeds, crustaceans and mollusks were proposed and their correlated CF was calculated. For human-made systems, the deprived land resource is, in fact, the occupied area of the marine surface. Based on potential marine net primary production data (NPP), exergy based spatial and temporal CFs for ocean areal occupation were calculated. This approach was included in the Cumulative Exergy Extraction from the Natural Environment (CEENE) method which makes it the first life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method capable of analyzing the environmental impact (and more specific the resource footprint) of marine areal occupation. Furthermore, the methodology was applied to two case studies: comparing resource consumption of on- and offshore oil production, and fish and soybean meal production for fish feed applications.

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