2024
  • Non-ICIMOD publication

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Resources Time Footprint for Assessment of Human Influence on Ecosystem Service from a Sustainability Standpoint

  • Phub Dem
  • Kiichiro Hayashi
  • Minoru Fujii
  • Summary

Nature provides diverse services to humanity, known as ecosystem services (ES), yet certain services, such as food and timber, are geographically distant from human settlements. This spatial separation of ES from supply area to demand site fosters transfer through human-made carrier as ES flow, resulting in social and ecological impacts. This study delves into this complex ES supply, flow, and demand relation. While the conventional ES assessment approach mainly quantifies ES supply potential, Resources Time Footprint (RTF) is introduced as a new indicator to evaluate human intervention part of ES supply and flow. RTF examines intergenerational sustainability of ES by evaluating material, land, labor, and pollutant resource utilization in relation to individual allocations. The efficacy of this integration is evaluated through a case study covering 17 ESs dynamics in central Bhutan for 2010 and 2020, and RTF is applied to potato-ES, given its higher human intervention in the area. This is finally validated against commonly used emergy analysis and its derivatives. The study observed a 3.5% increase in 17 ESs, with minor intergenerational implications associated with supply and flow of potato-ES. The average per capita RTF values were 0.81 and 0.52 years, or 2 and 1.3 years per 100 kg of potatoes for the 2010 and 2020 base case, respectively. This smaller RTF value for 2020 indicates reduced resource occupancy rates with higher intergenerational sustainability. This replicable indicator effectively evaluated human related impacts on ES supply and flow and identified land and labor as underperforming aspects with higher occupancy rates. The comparative validation showed inadequateness of emergy-derivatives in examining human intervention in ES flow, and limitations of ES-RTF in evaluating nature's contribution. This underscores the complementary nature of two methodologies. Overall, this study contributes to a telecoupling framework for a sustainable society, enhancing coherence and consistency in analyzing ES supply and flow.