The aggregate flow DE covers the annual amount of raw materials, apart from water and air, extracted from the national territory in order to be used as material factor inputs to economic processing. The term used refers to acquiring value within the economic system. "Inputs from the environment refer to the extraction or movement of natural materials on purpose and by humans or human controlled means of technology (i.e., involving labour). . . . Unused flows are materials that are extracted from the environment without the intention of using them" (Eurostat 2001a:17).
Domestic extraction consists of biomass,2 fossil fuels, industrial minerals and gross ores, and construction minerals.3 DE on the national level indicates resource depletion within a country's territory. This depletion may be temporary (as with agricultural biomass) or long term (as with the destruction of primary forest or the extraction of minerals and ores). This relates to intergenerational equity as a sustainability issue. On a global scale, DE reflects the overall scale of human activity on this planet. Comparing DE between countries indicates each country's share in the global raw material extraction. When differentiating by class of materials, DE relates to specific scarcities. DE of plant biomass, for example, can be related to global net primary production of biomass, DE of fossil fuels, minerals, and ores to known reserves.
DE per square kilometer indicates environmental pressure on the domestic natural environment in relation to its size and the intensity of its human use. The specific environmental pressure may consist of competitive pressure on other species and loss of biodiversity. Most fractions of DE somehow relate to area: Biomass is clearly area dependent; construction materials (always used in close proximity to their extraction) are used for sealing land and regulating water bodies, which competes with biotic uses of land; and fossil fuels enrich the atmospheric carbon cycle unless neutralized by the growth of green plants, which need area.
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