Carbon footprint and ecosystem services during the life cycle of woody landscape plants
Horticultural crop producers and marketers are increasingly adopting sustainable practices. A sustainable system is often described as being environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. With a maturing nursery industry, economic sustainability is important and the industry has traditionally sought ways to minimize environmental impacts from production while increasing efficiency to maintain profitability in a maturing market. Understanding the environmental impacts of production system protocols could allow managers to make more informed decisions to increase efficiency, reduce potentially negative impacts, and reduce the associated variable costs. Understanding the ecosystem services of landscape plants could provide information to help market these products to increasingly environmentally-conscious consumers. Woody landscape plants have a modest carbon footprint from production, transport and establishment; however, carbon sequestration during the functional life in the landscape far outweighs the potential impact of those emissions early in the life cycle. For example, the weighted impact of a red maple growing in the landscape for 60 years of a standard 100-year assessment period was calculated as NDASH 666 kg CO2 while the carbon footprint (CF) from propagation to landscape was only 20.9 kg CO2-equivalent. That is more than a 30-fold positive impact on atmospheric CO2 after production and planting in the landscape in addition to positive economic impact.
Ingram, D.L., Hall, C.R. and Knight, J. (2018). Carbon footprint and ecosystem services during the life cycle of woody landscape plants. Acta Hortic. 1191, 139-144
life cycle assessment, environmental impact