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Understanding and Quantifying Environmental Impacts on Ecosystems



Course format On-site
Datum 2021-01-11 - 2021-05-07

The course addresses environmental impacts and their assessment. The course shall familiarize the students with different tools for quantifying these environmental impacts with a main focus on impact pathways damaging ecosystems. Methodologically, the stress is on Life Cycle Impact Assessment and its methods to assess impacts on ecosystems and human health. The following environmental impacts will be covered: Climate change, toxicity, acidification, eutrophication, particulate matter formation, land and water use. Novel developments within life cycle impact assessment will be discussed. The course will also introduce the student to related methods such as risk assessment and simple multimedia modeling.The spatial differentiation of impacts and the consideration of their uncertainty will be introduced.


Recommended previous knowledge

University-level mathematics, Life cycle assessment (LCA), e.g. through TEP4223.

Learning outcomes


The student will gain knowledge and understanding

  • of the dominant problems for biodiversity and ecosystems
  • in the definition of ecosystem services
  • of the differences, strengths and weaknesses of different impact assessment methodologies
  • of a variety of LCIA impact categories (such as toxicity, acidification, particulate matter emissions, eutrophication and water use), including the background of the methodological development, the importance of spatial differentiation and uncertainties


At the end of the term, students should:

  • Have gained an thorough overview of the major environmental stressors that are affecting ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Be familiar with the principles for the development of life cycle impact assessment methodologies for ecosystems with all their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Have the ability to set up and solve multimedia mass balance models (steady-state),
  • Have the ability to define system boundaries for LCA applications and footprinting
  • Have the ability to critically interpret outcomes of LCAs and perform simple LCA assessments
  • Have gained knowledge about the background and execution of other assessment approaches (such as risk assessment).
  • Be able to judge the limits of different tools such as LCA, risk assessment and footprinting
  • Be able to judge the application possibilities of the above-mentioned tools

The main focus will be on impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, but important impact categories for human health will be included as well.


ISCED Categories

Conservatie en milieumanagement