Integrated assessment of agro-ecological systems : the case study of the "Alta Murgia" National park in ItalyIntegrated assessment of agro-ecological systems : the case study of the "Alta Murgia" National park in Italy
Faculty of Applied Economics
Agricultural systems. - Barking
144(2016), p. 144-155
University of Antwerp
Several indicators and methods are already applied for sustainability assessment in agriculture. The links between sustainability indicators, agricultural management and policies are not well explained. The aim of this study is to combine biophysical and monetary sustainability assessment tools to support agriculture policy decision-making. Three methodological steps are considered: i) the environmental impacts of farms are assessed using terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, soil and freshwater ecotoxicity as well as natural land transformation; ii) the most relevant indicators of agriculture damages on ecosystems quality are aggregated into an index; iii) the farms' index scores are integrated with farm assets, land and labor, into the Sustainable Value approach (SVA), as indicator of natural resources used by farms. As a case study, the methodology was applied to arable farms with and without animal husbandry of the "Alta Murgia" National Park. The crop farms, in our sample, have a higher sustainable value using their economic and environmental resources. Mixed farms need to improve their resources use efficiency. Although crop farms have lower land-use efficiency compared to mixed farms, our results suggest supporting, by means of policy options, the specialized crop farms that, on average, perform better in terms of ecosystems quality preservation. Finally, we find that Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to soundly measure the environmental impacts clearly enriches the SVA. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.