Germany’s Agricultural Land Footprint and the Impact of Import Pattern Allocation

Footprints are powerful indicators for evaluating the impacts of a country’s bioeconomy on environmental goods, both domestic and abroad. We apply a hybrid approach combining a multi-regional input-output model and land use modelling to compute the agricultural land footprint (aLF). Furthermore, we added information on land-use change to the analysis and allocated land conversion to specific commodities. Using Germany as a case study, we show that the aLF abroad is 2.5 to 3 times larger compared to impacts within the country. When allocating land conversion of natural and semi-natural land-cover types in 2005 and 2010 to import increases by Germany, conversion rates were found to be 2.5 times higher than for the global average. Import increases to Germany slowed down in 2015 and 2020, reducing land conversion attributed to the German bioeconomy as well. Our results indicate that looking at a static import pattern is not sufficient to draw a realistic picture of the land footprint of a country. For a more detailed assessment that also considers temporal dynamics and impacts of biomass use and trade, our newly developed set of indicators also captures changes of import patterns over time. The case study shows that our enhanced land footprint provides clear and meaningful information for policymakers and other stakeholders.