MO.1.D || Land Use and Biodiversity in Life Cycle Management

Rottmann, Désirée; Jüde, Franziska; Lindner, Jan Paul; Zimmermann, John; Johnson, Joardan; Thoma, Greg

The impact of biodiversity on the global and local ecosystems is one that cannot be understated. Food production is closely linked to the natural environment, so the impact on biodiversity should not be underestimated neither. The beef production as part of the food production system seems straightforward but is complex. Against this background, a team of professors and students from the University of Arkansas and the Bochum University of Applied Sciences investigated the impact of US beef production on biodiversity. The research was based on the Biodiversity Impact Assessment Method according to Lindner et al. (2019) and Lindner & Knuepffer (2020). Cattle in the U.S. typically go through 3 stages before slaughter, with both large regional differences and large variances in management characteristics. Cattle typically spend the first stage of their lives on pasture while spending the third (final) stage in feedlots. Due to differences in available land as well as differences in feed composition, the impacts on biodiversity vary significantly both between and within the stages. In addition, there is generally no “typical pathway” that cattle go through that can be considered and evaluated as universal. The method described above is based on the concept of distance from nature, and the consideration of different ecoregions, which describes the conservation value of land in a global context. The result of this case study is a tool that allows the user to calculate and compare the biodiversity impacts of different pathways through the cattle ranching system in a variety of U.S. states. The investigation shows that especially the 3rd stage of the life cycle of a cow leads to high biodiversity damage. This can be explained in particular by the keeping cattle in feedlots; moreover, additional land is required for the cultivation of the extra feed, which causes additional biodiversity impact.