IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (II): Evaluating impact indicators


  • Walter, Christof
  • Stützel, Hartmut


In the past decade, numerous indicators and indicator sets for sustainable agriculture and sustainable land management have been proposed. In addition to their interest in comparing different management systems on an indicator by indicator basis, land managers are often interested in comparing individual indicators against a threshold, or, in order to study trade-offs, against each other. To this end it is necessary to (1) transform the original indicators into a comparable format, and (2) score these transformed indicators against a sustainability function. This paper introduces an evaluation method for land-use-related impact indicators, which was designed to accomplish these tasks. It is the second of a series of two papers, and as such it links into a larger framework for sustainability assessment of land use systems. The evaluation scheme introduced here comprises (1) a standardisation procedure, which aims at making different indicators comparable. In this procedure indicators are first normalised, by referencing them to the total impact they contribute towards, and then they are corrected by a factor describing the severity of this total impact in terms of exceeding a threshold. The procedure borrows conceptually from Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Impact Analysis methodology; (2) a valuation procedure, which judges the individual standardised indicators with regard to sustainability. This methodology is then tested on an indicator set for the environmental impact of a spinach production system in Northwest Germany. The method highlights mineral resource consumption, greenhouse gas emission, eutrophication and impacts on soil quality as the most important environmental effects of the studied system. We then explore the effect of introducing weighting factors, reflecting the differing societal perception of diverse environmental issues. Two different sets of weighting factors are used. The influence of weighting is, however, small compared to that of the standardisation procedure introduced earlier. Finally, we explore the propagation of uncertainty (defined as a variable's 95% confidence limits) throughout the standardisation procedure using a stochastic simulation approach. The uncertainty of the analysed standardised indicator was higher than that of the non-standardised indicators by a factor of 2.0 to 2.5.

Suggested Citation

  • Walter, Christof & Stützel, Hartmut, 2009. "A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (II): Evaluating impact indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1288-1300, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:5:p:1288-1300

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Walter, Christof & Stützel, Hartmut, 2009. "A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (I): Identifying the relevant issues," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1275-1287, March.
    2. Tacconi, Luca, 1998. "Scientific methodology for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 91-105, October.
    3. Jamieson, Dale, 1998. "Sustainability and beyond," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 183-192, February.
    4. Izac, A-M. N. & Swift, M. J., 1994. "On agricultural sustainability and its measurement in small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 105-125, November.
    5. Hansen, J. W., 1996. "Is agricultural sustainability a useful concept?," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 117-143.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Didem Dizdaroglu, 2017. "The Role of Indicator-Based Sustainability Assessment in Policy and the Decision-Making Process: A Review and Outlook," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(6), pages 1-28, June.
    2. Cisneros, J.M. & Grau, J.B. & Antón, J.M. & de Prada, J.D. & Cantero, A. & Degioanni, A.J., 2011. "Assessing multi-criteria approaches with environmental, economic and social attributes, weights and procedures: A case study in the Pampas, Argentina," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(10), pages 1545-1556, August.
    3. Qing Huang & Xinqi Zheng & Yecui Hu, 2015. "Analysis of Land-Use Emergy Indicators Based on Urban Metabolism: A Case Study for Beijing," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(6), pages 1-19, June.
    4. Jones, Michael John, 2010. "Accounting for the environment: Towards a theoretical perspective for environmental accounting and reporting," Accounting forum, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 123-138.
    5. Ivonne Acosta-Alba & Hayo M. G. Van der Werf, 2011. "The Use of Reference Values in Indicator-Based Methods for the Environmental Assessment of Agricultural Systems," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(2), pages 1-19, February.
    6. Sergiy Smetana & Christine Tamásy & Alexander Mathys & Volker Heinz, 2015. "Sustainability and regions: sustainability assessment in regional perspective," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(4), pages 163-186, November.
    7. Paula Trivino-Tarradas & Manuel R. Gomez-Ariza & Gottlieb Basch & Emilio J. Gonzalez-Sanchez, 2019. "Sustainability Assessment of Annual and Permanent Crops: The Inspia Model," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(3), pages 1-21, January.
    8. Maria G. Lampridi & Claus G. Sørensen & Dionysis Bochtis, 2019. "Agricultural Sustainability: A Review of Concepts and Methods," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(18), pages 1-27, September.
    9. Öberg, Christina & Huge-Brodin, Maria & Björklund, Maria, 2012. "Applying a network level in environmental impact assessments," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 247-255.
    10. Lindner, Marcus & Suominen, Tommi & Palosuo, Taru & Garcia-Gonzalo, Jordi & Verweij, Peter & Zudin, Sergey & Päivinen, Risto, 2010. "ToSIA—A tool for sustainability impact assessment of forest-wood-chains," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 221(18), pages 2197-2205.
    11. Walter, Christof & Stützel, Hartmut, 2009. "A new method for assessing the sustainability of land-use systems (I): Identifying the relevant issues," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1275-1287, March.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:5:p:1288-1300. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Haili He). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.