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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Spatially differentiated midpoint indicator for marine eutrophication of waterborne emissions in Sweden

Henryson, Kajsa; Hansson, Per-Anders; Sundberg, Cecilia


In life cycle assessment (LCA), eutrophication is commonly assessed using site-generic characterisation factors, despite being a site-dependent environmental impact. The purpose of this study was to improve the environmental relevance of marine eutrophication impact assessment in LCA, particularly regarding the impact assessment of waterborne nutrient emissions from Swedish agriculture.Characterisation factors were derived using site-dependent data on nutrient transport for all agricultural soils in Sweden, divided into 968 catchment areas, and considering the Baltic Sea, the receiving marine compartment, as both nitrogen- and phosphorus-limited. These new characterisation factors were then applied to waterborne nutrient emissions from typical grass ley and spring barley cultivation in all catchments.The site-dependent marine eutrophication characterisation factors obtained for nutrient leaching from soils varied between 0.056 and 0.986 kg N-eq/kg N and between 0 and 7.23 kg N-eq/kg P among sites in Sweden. On applying the new characterisation factors to spring barley and grass ley cultivation at different sites in Sweden, the total marine eutrophication impact from waterborne nutrient emissions for these crops varied by up to two orders of magnitude between sites. This variation shows that site plays an important role in determining the actual impact of an emission, which means that site-dependent impact assessment could provide valuable information to life cycle assessments and increase the relevance of LCA as a tool for assessment of product-related eutrophication impacts.Characterisation factors for marine eutrophication impact assessment at high spatial resolution, considering both the site-dependent fate of eutrophying compounds and specific nutrient limitations in the recipient waterbody, were developed for waterborne nutrient emissions from agriculture in Sweden. Application of the characterisation factors revealed variations in calculated impacts between sites in Sweden, highlighting the importance of spatial differentiation of characterisation modelling within the scale of the impact.


Baltic Sea; Characterisation factors; Fate; LCIA; Life cycle assessment; Life cycle impact assessment; Nutrient limitation; Site-dependent

Published in

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
2018, volume: 23, number: 1, pages: 70-81

Authors' information

Henryson, Kajsa
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

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