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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Reconciling a positive ecological balance with human development: A quantitative assessment

Tamburino, Lucia; Bravo, Giangiacomo


Clear indicators and evaluation criteria are essential to keep humanity's environmental impact within planetary boundaries. We introduce a new criterion based on two constraints, accounting for both ecological and human sustainability. The ecological constraint is defined through a novel indicator, the eco-balance, grounded on the well known concept of ecological footprint and the new concept of population biodensity. The human sustainability constraint is based on the estimated level of biocapacity consumption needed to achieve an acceptable level of human development. The application of our criterion to world countries shows where technological improvements and changes in consumption patterns are sufficient to reach sustainability, and where actions on population and/or restoring ecological capital are also needed. This highlights synergic patterns going beyond simplistic schemes, such as overconsumption vs. overpopulation or developed vs. developing countries.


Sustainability criteria; Population density; Biocapacity; Per capita impact

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2021, volume: 129, article number: 107973
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Tamburino, Lucia
Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (IGDORE)
Tamburino, Lucia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Bravo, Giangiacomo
Linnaeus University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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