Temporal Trends of Ecological Footprint of Foodstuffs in Iran and Evaluation of Future Scenarios

Document Type : Scientific - Research




Ecological footprint 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. Total world ecological footprint for the year 2010 has been estimated to be 18.2 billion Gha with a per capita 2.7 Gha. Biocapacity is another concept which together with footprint sustainability of ecosystems means the whole area of a specific geographic region which has a proper biomass production and waste absorption capacity. Measurement of ecological footprint together with biocapacity provides useful information on the intensity of resource use and the status of environmental sustainability. Evaluation of footprint by national bodies has been emphasized more, rather than the international ones. Footprint for food production also called foodprint is the area required for food production for a population (energy required for transportation and processing is not consider). The purpose of present study was to evaluate production and consumption status of different groups of agricultural foods and to measure the foodprint in Iran. Calculation of biocapacity and ecological deficiency in the country with regards to different consumption pattern was other purpose of this study.
Materials and Methods
Time trends of food and total ecological footprint, biocapacity and ecological deficit of Iran during 1990-2013 were analyzed and based on trend equation the value of these indices were predicted for 2025.
Data was collected for different group of agriculture foods from Ministry of Jihad Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and also from other published data in official databases in the country.
The effect of the amount of consumption on foodprint was considered on the basis of the above scenarios for the population of the country in year 2050. Furthermore the effect of water and nitrogen use efficiency on foodprint was also considered on the bases of food production in the present pattern and in a condition where these efficiencies are enhanced by 20%. The balance between production and consumption in the future was calculated by Gini coefficient.
Results and discussion
Results indicate that food and total footprint were increased respectively, by 3.3 and 2.9% per year, during the study period and this trend would be led to 1.05 and 3.34 Gha/person for food and total footprint, respectively. Total biocapacity of the country in 2013 was estimated as 0.82 Gha/person which was lower than the value for world (1.8 Gha/person) and Middle East average (0.91 Gha/person). Croplands accounted for 47% of total biocapacity of the country while forests and rangelands contributed by 30%. During the study period, biocapacity showed a positive trend but with a slow slope toward leading to 0.85 Gha/person in 2025. Ecological deficit of the country (ecological footprint minus biocapacity) which was 0.7 Gha/person in 1990 has increased by 5.9% per year with a value of 1.9 Gha/person in 2013 and predicted to reach 2.5 Gha/person by 2025. The balance between consumption and national food production as well as footprint of food stuffs were analyzed under 4 scenarios based on different level of consumption of meat and dairy. In all scenarios of increase in consumption of animal products, the unbalanced relation of consumption/production was intensified and resulted in decreased self-sufficiency index and increased footprint of food stuffs.
Foodprint for Iran is 0.88 Gha. For the different group of food the highest foodprint (0.43 Gha per person) is for animal products. Population growth together with increasing per capita income has changed food consumption pattern and hence the demand for more food has caused higher pressure on natural resources and more food to be imported. This is the case in most developing countries. Results showed that enhancement of resource use efficiency (water and nitrogen) by 20% higher than the current values could led to improvement of agricultural self-sufficiency and considerable reduction of footprint in all future scenarios. Our results showed that with increasing efficiency of resource use (water and nitrogen) foodprint can be reduced.
This research was funded by Vice Chancellor for Research of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, which is hereby acknowledged.


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