Ecological Footprint of Foodstuff in Iran

Document Type : Scientific - Research




The concept of ecological footprint was first proposed by Rees (1992) and further developed by Wackernagel and Yount (2000). This is an index based on the land area needed for basic requirements and also the waste disposal of an individual in a specific geographic location and usually calculated on the basis of area per capita which is normally global hectare (Gha) per capita. Based on the report of World Wildlife Found, total world ecological footprint for the year 2010 has been estimated to be 18.2 billion global hectares (Gha) with a per capita 2.7 Gha. This index is reciprocal of carrying capacity.
During the last two decades ecological footprint accounting is used widely for evaluation of ecosystems sustainability. However, limited information is available about ecological footprint of Iran and its components. In this research the state of production and consumption of different food stuffs and ecological footprint of food were calculated for Iran and the results are compared with other countries.
Materials and Methods
Data was collected for different group of agriculture foods including cereals, oil crops, pulses, dairy products, meat, fruits and vegetables from Ministry of Jihad Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and also from other published data in official databases in the country. Calculation was made by the method provided in the literature.
Based on these factors ecological foodprint for each food product (efi) on the bases of Gha can be calculated from equation 1.


Equation (1)

In which efi: is the foodprint for product i, Ai: is the land area required for the same product i and fe,i: is the conversion factor for product i (Gha per ha).
Calculation of foodprint


Equation (2)


Equation (3)

Where EF is total ecological footprint (Gha), ef: per capita ecological footprint in terms of Gha and N: total population of the country.
Results and Discussion
The amount of total food production and consumption in 2013 were estimated as 89.5 and 94.6 Mg, respectively with self-sufficiency coefficient (production: consumption ratio) of 0.87. Self-sufficiency of cereals, oil crops and sugar crops were calculated as 0.69, 0.12 and 0.48, respectively that shows these food groups are highly import-dependent. However, production of vegetables and fruits exceeded their consumption and for other food items consumption was balanced by production. Ecological footprint of food estimated as 0.88 Gha/person and increased to 1.04 ha/person when calculated based on local hectares. Component analysis showed that this difference was due to lower efficiency of cereal and meat and dairy production systems of the country compared to world averages. Meat and dairy products accounted for 48% of food footprint of Iran and 33% of this footprint was due to cereals. Based on our results, Iranian food footprint is higher than Asia (0.7 Gh/person) and is almost the same as the world average (0.9 Gh/peron). Moreover, footprint of food is increased over the country by 76% during years 2000-2013 and this trend could led to severe environmental consequences.
Except for vegetable oils, sugar and cereals, the production and consumption of other groups of food materials are in balance, even for some groups such as fruits and vegetables. There is a small surplus in production over consumption for some extent dairy products. Foodprint for Iran is higher than the value for Asia and is similar to average for the world. In general, foodprint differs significantly amongst the nation and as expected this value is higher in those countries with higher consumption of meat. Higher demand for consumption of meat has caused an increase in indirect consumption of cereals for meat production. It should be noted that since foodprint is based on global hectare, comparison between countries and regions are simply possible. In fact if yield of a crop at national level is increased but world mean yield does not change, foodprint based on global hectare remains unchanged but if it is calculated on the bases of local hectare, foodprint will decrease. Therefore, system efficiency can be evaluated at national level, by comparison of foodprint at two different scales of global hectare and local hectare. 
This research (14920.1) was funded by vice chancellor for research of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, which is hereby acknowledged.


Ara Begum, R., Pereira, J.J., Jaafar, A.H., and Al-Amin, A.Q. 2009. An empirical assessment of ecological footprint calculations for Malaysia. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 53: 582–587.
Arabi Yazdi, A., Alizadeh, A., and Mohammadian, F. 2009. Ecological footprint of water in agricultural sector of Iran. Journal of Water and Soil 23(2): 1-15. (In Persian with English Summary)
Carlsson-Kanyama, A., and Gonzalez, A.D. 2009. Potential contributions of food consumption patterns to climate change. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89: 1704–1709.
Chen, D., Gao, W., Chen, Y., and Qiao, Z. 2010. Ecological footprint analysis of food consumption of rural residents in China in the latest 30 years. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia 1: 106–115.
Collins, A., and Fairchild, R. 2007. Sustainable food consumption at a sub-national level: an ecological footprint, nutritional and economic analysis. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 9: 15–30.
FAO, 2010. FAO Statistics., default.aspx.
FAO. 2004. Globalization, urbanization and changing food systems in developing countries. In The state of food insecurity in the world 2004, pp. 18–19. Rome.
Ferng, J.J. 2007. Resource-to-land conversions in ecological footprint analysis: The significance of appropriate yield data. Ecological Economics 62: 379–382.
Frey, S., and Barrett, J. 2007. The Footprint of Scotland’s Diet– the Environmental Burden of What We Eat. Stockholm Environment Institute, York, UK.
Gharakhloo, M., Hatami Nejad, H., Baghvand, A., and Yalve, M. 2013. Evaluation of urban development sustainability with ecological footprint (Case study: The city of Kermanshah). Human Geography Research Quarterly 45(2): 105-120. (In Persian with English Summary)
Hails, C., Loh, J., and Goldfinger, S. 2006. Living Planet Report. 2006. World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Global Footprint Network, Gland, Switzerland.
Huang, Q., Wang, R., Renc, Z., Li, J., and Zhang, H. 2007. Regional ecological security assessment based on long periods of ecological footprint analysis. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 51: 24–41.
Kissinger, M. 2013. Approaches for calculating a nation’s food ecological footprint-The case of Canada. Ecological Indicators 24: 366–374.
Kitzes, J., Galli, A., Baglianic, M., Barrett, J., Dige, G., Ede, S., Erb, K., Giljum, S., Haber, H., Hails, C., Jolia-Ferrierj, L., Jungwirt, S., Lenzen, M., Lewis, K., Loh, J., Marchettini, N., Messingero, H., Milnek, K., Molesp, R., Monfred, C., Moran, D., Nakano, K., Pyhälät, A., Rees, W., Simmons, C., Wackernagel, M., Wada, Y., Walsh, C., and Wiedmanm, T. 2009. A research agenda for improving national Ecological Footprint accounts. Ecological Economics 68: 1991–2007.
Kitzes, J., and Wackernagel, M. 2009. Answers to common questions in Ecological Footprint Accounting. Ecological Indicators 9: 812–817.
Lenzen, M., and Murray, S.A. 2001. A modified ecological footprint method and its application to Australia. Ecological Economics 37: 229–255.
Louwagie, G., Northey, G., Finn, J.A., and Purvis, G. 2012. Development of indicators for assessment of the environmental impact of livestock farming in Ireland using the Agri-environmental Footprint Index. Ecological Indicators 18: 149–162.
Moffat, I. 2000. Ecological footprints and sustainable development. Ecological Economics 32: 359–62.
Nassiri, M., and Koocheki, A. 2014. Long term evaluation of yield stability trend for cereal crops in Iran. Journal of Agroecology in Press. (In Persian with English Summary)
Rees, W.E. 1992. Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out. Environment and Urbanization 4(2): 121–130.
Rees, W.E. 1996. Revisiting carrying capacity: area-based indicators of sustainability. Population and Environment 17: 195–215.
Rosegrant, M.W., Paisner, M.S., Meijer, S., and Witcover, J. 2009. International Food Policy Research Institute, Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020: Proceedings of an International Conference, Bonn, Germany (Washington, DC: IFPRI, 2009).
Samadpour, F. 2006. Assessment of environmental effects and high density urban development with ecological footprint (Case study: district of Elahieh in Tehran city). PhD Thesis, Tehran University, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian with English Summary)
Sanderson, E.W., Jaiteh, M., Levy, M.A., Redford, K.H., Wannebo, A.V., and Woolmer, G. 2002. The Human Footprint and the Last of the Wild. BioScience 52: 891-904.
Sassanpour, F. 2006. Examining the stability of Tehran metroplolice with the ecological footprint method. PhD thesis, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran. (In Persian with English Summary)
Siche, J.R., Agostinho, F., Ortega, E., and Romeiro, A. 2008. Sustainability of nations by indices: Comparative study between environmental sustainability index, ecological footprint and the energy performance indices. Ecological Economics 66: 628–637.
Stoglehner, G. 2003. Ecological footprint: a tool for assessing sustainable energy supplies. Journal of Cleaner Production 11: 267–277.
Van Vuuren, D.P., and Bouwman, L.F. 2005. Exploring past and future changes in the ecological footprint for world regions. Ecological Economics 52: 43-62.
Wackernagel, M., and Rees, W.E. 1996. Our ecological footprint: reducing human impact on the earth. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers 55 pp.
Wackernagel, M., and Yount, J.D. 2000. Footprints for sustainability: the next steps. Environment, Development and Sustainability 2: 21–42.
Wackernagel, M., Monfreda, C., Schulz, N.B., Erb, K.H., Haberl, and H., Krausmann, F. 2004. Calculating national and global ecological footprint time series: resolving conceptual challenges. Land Use Policy 21: 271–278.
White, T.J. 2007. Sharing resources: The global distribution of the Ecological Footprint. Ecological Economics 64: 402-410.
Wiedmann, T., and Lenzen, M. 2007. On the conversion between local and global hectares in Ecological Footprint analysis. Ecological Economics 60: 673–677.
WWF. 2002. Living Planet Report 2002. World Wildlife Found Editor.
WWF. 2012. Living Planet Report 2012: Biodiversity, biocapacity and better choices. Gland, Switzerland.