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The Use of Reference Values in Indicator-Based Methods for the Environmental Assessment of Agricultural Systems

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  • Ivonne Acosta-Alba

    () (INRA, UMR1069, Soil Agro and hydroSystem, F-35000 Rennes, France
    Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1069, Soil Agro and hydroSystem, F-35000 Rennes, France)

  • Hayo M. G. Van der Werf

    () (INRA, UMR1069, Soil Agro and hydroSystem, F-35000 Rennes, France
    Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1069, Soil Agro and hydroSystem, F-35000 Rennes, France)

Abstract

Many indicator-based methods for the environmental assessment of farming systems have been developed. It is not the absolute values of the indicators that reveal whether the impact of a system is acceptable, but rather the distance between these values and some reference values. We reviewed eight frameworks for the environmental assessment of agricultural systems that define reference values for their indicators. We analyzed the methods used to establish reference values and explored how to improve these methods to increase their usage and relevance. This analysis revealed a striking diversity of terminology, sources, and modes of expression of results. Normative reference values allow the assessment of a single system with a previously defined value; Relative reference values are based on indicator values for similar systems or a reference system. Normative reference values can be Science-based or Policy-based . A science-based normative reference value can be a Target value , which identifies desirable conditions, or an Environmental limit , which is the level beyond which conditions are unacceptable. The quantification of the uncertainty of reference values is a topic which is barely explored and warrants further research. Reference values present a means of introducing site specificity into methods for environmental assessment which seems, at present, largely under-exploited.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:2:p:424-442:d:11343
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Vinayagamoorthi Vasanth & Murugesan Selvam & Kasilingam Lingaraja & Ramachandran Rajesh Ramkumar, 2015. "Nexus between Profitability and Environmental Performance of Indian Firms: An Analysis with Granger Causality," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 5(2), pages 433-439.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:99-109 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Jaume Freire-González & Ignasi Puig-Ventosa, 2015. "Energy Efficiency Policies and the Jevons Paradox," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 5(1), pages 69-79.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    value; threshold; fair earthshare; critical flow; sustainability standard; critical threshold values; baseline value; environmental minimum requirement;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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