Conclusions

HANPP is an aggregate indicator of human-induced changes in ecosystem processes resulting from human activities that aim at shaping terrestrial ecosystems according to human needs and wants. HANPP is an interesting indicator for the intensity of human colonization of terrestrial ecosystems and the extent of human domination of ecosystems. Moreover, because changes in HANPP are also relevant for carbon stocks and flows in ecosystems (Erb 2004), it is also relevant for the discussion of human-induced changes in the carbon cycle (Haberl 2001).

HANPP can be related to specific socioeconomic activities. Using input-output analysis (Duchin 1998) it would be possible to calculate the amount of HANPP resulting from the economic activity in every economic sector of a country under consideration. It would also be possible to calculate HANPP associated to many relevant products. It would thus be possible to relate HANPP to final consumption or to GDP. HANPP can be aggregated, and it can be calculated in great spatial detail. These features make HANPP an attractive pressure indicator because it allows a host of relevant analyses (e.g., assessments of the effect of changes in consumer behavior on HANPP, evaluations of the impacts of policy changes on HANPP). This contrasts with landscape ecological indicators that can be qualitatively explained only by regional characteristics in land use and must take into account geomorphological, cultural, and other peculiarities of a study region (Wrbka et al. 2004) and can thus not really be linked to aggregate socioeconomic trends.

Based on statistical data, remote sensing data, and appropriate models, HANPP can already be assessed easily. Appropriate extensions of current vegetation models such as the Lund—Potsdam—Jena (LPJ) model (Sitch et al. 2003) could facilitate such assessments. These models would also allow us to relate changes in production and consumption patterns and climate change in scenario-based approaches and therefore could be very useful for the projection of possible future pressures on biodiversity.

Both the theoretical considerations and the empirical analyses reported show that HANPP is a good candidate for an aggregate pressure indicator for biodiversity loss. Significant empirical evidence substantiates the previously rather general considerations on its potential usefulness (Wright 1987, 1990), although more evidence, particularly from outside Europe, is desirable. Even without such evidence we believe the HANPP concept and method are a well-founded basis for a pressure indicator for biodiversity loss.

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