The importance of a life cycle approach for valuing carbon sequestration

C.E. van Middelaar, C. Cederberg, P.J. Gerber, M. Persson, I.J.M. de Boer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademicpeer-review


Carbon sequestration (C-seq) in grassland has been proposed as a strategy to reduce the net contribution of livestock to
climate change. Carbon stored in soils, however, can easily be re-emitted to the atmosphere if soil conditions change. The
aim of this study was to evaluate the importance of C-seq for reducing the impact of dairy production on climate change
over time, based on life cycle assessment. Annual emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (cradle-to-farm
gate) were analysed for two types of dairy systems in the Netherlands: a grass-based system (high C-seq potential) and a
maize-based system (low C-seq potential). Soil carbon fluxes were modelled to quantify the uptake and release of carbon
dioxide in agricultural soils. The climate impact per ton of fat-and-protein corrected milk (FCPM) for each system was
modelled over time, based on the radiative forcing and atmospheric lifetime of annual emissions and soil carbon fluxes.
Systems were compared for a situation in which soil carbon was re-emitted after 20 years, or stored for an indefinite period
of time. Results show that C-seq favours the grass-based system in the short-term, until the point at which soil carbon is reemitted
(i.e., 20 years), or reaches equilibrium (after 70 years). Results demonstrate the importance of including both annual
emissions and soil carbon fluxes by means of a life cycle approach, and to consider the climate impact over time, when
valuing the potential benefit of C-seq.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts of the 10th international conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event10th international conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 19 Oct 201621 Oct 2016


Conference10th international conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food


  • livestock, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, mitigation, dairy production

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