New: The Biodiversity Footprint Calculator

Just launched: The new Biodiversity Footprint Calculator!

A free calculation tool by Plansup to assess both current and future biodiversity footprint of a company’s product at the landscape level. With the tool companies can test the effectiveness of presumed biodiversity friendly measures.

This calculator was made by Plansup in collaboration with Saxion. With the help of this tool, companies have an opportunity to calculate their biodiversity footprint online. The tool is based on dose response relationships of two pressure factors from the GLOBIO methodology and therefore it gives only an indication of the generic impact on biodiversity. No rights can be derived from the results obtained.

The BF calculator is an open source tool and has been developed by Plansup in collaboration with Wageningen Environmental Research. The research of the underlying methodology and the development of the calculator was carried out with public money and therefore the calculator is fully accessible and free of charge. It is expected that the tool will be improved in the future on the basis of additional research. When you publish results, please make a reference to the Plansup tool.

Questions on the tool and support / advice can be sent to:

Go to the webtool page

Competition of solar panel fields on biodiversity

Solar panel fields should not compete with biodiversity

Article Volkskrant 17 may 2018

Recently solar panel fields pop up like mushrooms in the Dutch landscape. The are even told to be nature friendly. We need to change from fossil fuels to clean energy sources but this should not compete with initiatives to increase the biodiversity in the Netherlands.

With one of the lowest biodiversity levels in the world (MSA = 15%) the extent of natural habitats is far too low. The trend of converting some of the former agricultural lands to nature faces now competition by the expansion of solar panel fields.

Currently less than 5% of the electricity in the Netherlands origins from solar panels. According to recent research, solar panels on suitable rooftops could increase this percentage to 50%.

So let’s first focus on using more solar panels on rooftops before we start competing with nature.

Translation article Nederlands Dagblad 22 may 2018:

With large-scale solar parks, you can destroy biodiversity.
Better settle on roofs.

By Wilbert van Rooij, Plansup

In the article about solar parks (Nederlands Dagblad 15 May) it all seems so beautiful: use the released agricultural area of quitting farmers for construction of solar parks. The available land gets a new commercial destination and it is good for the climate too. Another step in the direction of the Paris climate agreement. So who or what can be against this development?

But are not we missing out something here? I am not talking about the reduced view of a few adjacent homes. The Netherlands belongs to one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Original nature has largely been converted to agriculture, buildings and infrastructure. The consequences of this overuse of nature is only partly known. We know that worldwide deforestation has a significant share in climate change. But what about the impact of the decline in species populations? Only when it comes to the threat of some popular species there is some concern.

Biggest culprit
But little is being said about the biggest culprit: Reducing the habitat of animals and plants by conversion of land. In the distribution of land that becomes available again, nature itself has no say.
In 2014, the acreage of nature on land was according to the Compendium for the living environment (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) only 26 percent of the land surface of The Netherlands. This source also states that when you express biodiversity as a percentage of original nature, it was 40 percent in 1900 and now fluctuates around 15 percent.

One of the other causes of inefficient land use is the decision to hand over the planning of business parks from provincial to municipality level. While the provinces took into account the danger of cluttering rural areas and safeguarding existing nature, municipalities are mainly focusing on the attraction of job employment. That is why they offer land for businesses as cheap as possible.
As a result, companies are less efficient with the use of space. Instead of building in height, you see now an expansion of low rise business parks along the motorways.

Now that more attention is paid to the environment, municipalities are also benevolent
versus solar park initiatives. Will this be a second attack on our scarce space?

Halving population of insects
According to recent publications the number of insects in a number of Dutch nature reserves dropped with two thirds over the last 27 years. But how much is the decline outside these remaining areas and what will be the consequences? You do not have to look into a crystal ball to come up with the consequences for the economy if this trend is to continue. It is therefore important to increase the biodiversity in the Netherlands. The conversion of released agricultural plots offer a good opportunity for this. But there are now rivals in the field: large-scale solar parks. According to the developers of these solar parks, their construction can go well together with nature development. But small herbaceous borders, hiking paths and frog ponds are of course no more than a poor gesture. You can compare it to a ‘sustainable meal’ on board of an intercontinental flight that spills tons of CO2 emission into the atmosphere.

In order to realize the necessary energy transition, there are alternatives needed for the land-devouring solar parks. According to recent research by Deloitte half of the required electricity in the Netherlands can be generated by solar panels on roofs. There is almost 900 square kilometers of suitable roof surface available in the Netherlands. At this moment solar panels only provide 2 percent of the total demand. So a huge step can be made here. Politicians can help a hand here by enforcing installation of solar panels on suitable roofs of buildings that are paid with public money. In addition, the current statutory obstacles with the production of solar power on private roofs and that of companies should be taken away.
An energy transition is badly needed, but it should be one that goes along with the restoration of scarce nature in our crowded country.

Original article in Dutch: Nederlands Dagblad 22 may 2018

Met grootschalige zonneparken help je de biodoversiteit om zeep.
Zet liever in op daken. |

Door Wilbert van Rooij, Plansup

In het artikel over zonneparken (Nederlands Dagblad 15 mei) lijkt het allemaal
zo mooi: vrijgekomen landbouwgebied gebruiken voor de aanleg
van zonneparken. De beschikbare grond krijgt een nieuwe commerciële
bestemming en het is nog goed voor het klimaat ook. Weer een stapje in
de richting van het klimaatakkoord van Parijs. Dus wie of wat kan daar
nou tegen zijn?

Maar zien we hier niet iets over het hoofd? Hierbij doel ik niet op een
verminderd uitzicht van een paar aangrenzende woningen. Nederland
behoort tot een van de dichtst bevolkte landen ter wereld. Oorspronkelijke
natuur heeft grotendeels plaatsgemaakt voor landbouw, bebouwing
en infrastructuur. De gevolgen van deze roofbouw op
de natuur zijn nog maar ten dele bekend. We weten dat de wereldwijde
ontbossing een flink aandeel heeft in de klimaatverandering. Maar wat te
denken over de impact van de achteruitgang van het aantal soorten?
Pas wanneer het over de bedreiging van populaire soorten gaat, is er
sprake van enige zorg. grootste boosdoener
Maar over de allergrootste boosdoener wordt weinig gerept: het verkleinen
van het leefgebied van dieren en planten. Bij de verdeling van
land dat weer beschikbaar komt,heeft de natuur zelf geen inspraak.
In 2014 bedroeg het areaal natuur op land volgens het Compendium
voor de leefomgeving nog maar 26 procent van het landoppervlak in
Nederland. Hierin staat ook datwanneer je biodiversiteit uitdrukt in
het percentage oorspronkelijke natuur, deze 40 procent was in 1900
en nu rond de 15 procent schommelt. Een van de andere oorzaken van inefficiënt
gebruik van land is het besluit om de uitgave van bedrijventerreinen
over te hevelen van provincies naar gemeenten. Terwijl
de provincies rekening hielden met het gevaar van verrommeling van
het platteland en met het belang van de natuur, hebben de gemeenten
vooral oog voor het aantrekken van zo veel mogelijk werkgelegenheid.
Daarom bieden ze grond voor bedrijven zo goedkoop mogelijk
aan. Het gevolg is dat bedrijven hierdoor minder efficiënt met de grond om
hoeven te gaan. In plaats van in de hoogte te bouwen, krijg je uitgestrekte
bedrijventerreinen langs de snelwegen.

Nu er meer aandacht komt voor het milieu staan gemeenten ook welwillend
tegenover initiatieven met zonneparken. Wordt dit een tweede aanslag
op onze krappe ruimte?

halvering insecten
Het aantal insecten in een aantal Nederlandse natuurgebieden is de laatste
27 jaar met twee derde gedaald, volgens onderzoek. Maar hoeveel zal
de achteruitgang buiten deze overgebleven gebiedjes zijn en wat zijn de
consequenties hiervan? Je hoeft niet in een kristallen bol te kijken om erachter
te komen wat de gevolgen voor de economie zijn als deze trend
zich voortzet. Het is dus belangrijk om de biodiversiteit
in Nederland weer te laten toenemen. De omzetting van vrijkomende
landbouwpercelen biedt hiervoor een goede mogelijkheid.

Maar er is nu dus een kaper op de kust: grootschalige zonneparken.
Volgens de ontwikkelaars van deze parken kan de aanleg goed samengaan
met natuurontwikkeling. Maar de schaars aangelegde wandelpaadjes
en poeltjes zijn natuurlijk niet meer dan een doekje voor
het bloeden. Je kunt het vergelijken met een ‘duurzame maaltijd’ aan
boord van een intercontinentale lijnvlucht die tonnen CO2 in de atmosfeer
uitstoot. Om de energietransitie toch te kunnen realiseren, zijn er dus alternatieven
nodig voor de landverslindende zonneparken. Volgens recent onderzoek
van Deloitte kan de helft van de benodigde elektriciteit in Nederland
worden opgewekt door zonnepanelen op daken. Er is bijna 900 vierkante
kilometer aan geschikt dakoppervlak in Nederland beschikbaar. Op dit
moment voorzien de zonnepanelen echter maar 2 procent van de totale
vraag. Dus is hier enorme winst te behalen.

De politiek kan hierbij een handje helpen door er bijvoorbeeld voor te
zorgen dat alle geschikte daken van met publiek geld betaalde gebouwen
van zonnepanelen worden voorzien. Hiernaast moeten de huidige wettelijke
belemmeringen op de productie van zonnestroom op daken van particulieren
en bedrijven worden weggenomen. Een energietransitie is hard nodig,
maar dan wel een die samengaat met het herstel van de schaarse natuur in
ons overvolle landje.



Corporate responsibility and biodiversity: How can you make a difference?! The GLOBIO related Biodiversity Footprint method

In recent years companies have significantly increased focus on their relation to sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and natural capital. Many sectors, directly or indirectly, heavily depend on services that nature supplies, such as pollination, water storage, water treatment and soil fertility. Pressure on these services is increasing because biodiversity is deteriorating in
many (production) areas.                                        .

A growing group of companies gives attention to biodiversity as part of socially responsible business. In addition, business economics plays an important role, for strengthening market position, boosting new markets and addressing environmentally related requests of investors.                                      .

But how does a company determine its impact on biodiversity?
With a growing attention to biodiversity, the question arises how a company can effectively take into account biodiversity. For example: What is the impact of the company on biodiversity? Is this a direct impact of your own business process or an indirect impact by your suppliers? How do you measure the impact of measures that aim to reduce this impact? In order to get satisfying answers, it is necessary to look at the local level at pressures that are associated with the production process (such as the use of land for the production of raw materials and business buildings, greenhouse gas emissions or groundwater extraction) and their impact on biodiversity. With such information it will become clear to what extent measures contribute to the reduction of the impact on biodiversity and if it is useful to invest in such measures and communicate about them.

Globio: A proven, location-specific method.
Our biodiversity footprint methodology is based on the internationally implemented GLOBIO methodology and can answer the above questions. GLOBIO uses so-called ‘dose-response’ relation- ships (i.e. the effect of a pressure factor on biodiversity), that are based on the best available scientific knowledge. The local impact of pressure factors is determined in terms of the presence of species and the number of individuals per species.

GLOBIO assesses the effects of several human related pressures. The footprint method so far has been elaborated for the impact of three pressure types: Climate change, Land use and Emissions of nitrogen and phosphorous into water. In addition, the impact of Water extraction is added for the Dutch situation. By comparing the impact in the current situation (before measures) with the impact in a new situation (after measures) the effectiveness of biodiversity friendly measures can be tested, not only afterwards but also in advance. On the basis of this method companies can determine what their current impact on biodiversity is and what the future impact could be after implementation of planned measures.

Getting started
The GLOBIO related biodiversity footprint method is fully transparent and publicly available. In order to work with the method, an inventory of the aforementioned pressure factors (land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions to water) is required, preferably not only for the company itself, but also in its supply chain. The method can, for instance, be applied to relevant midpoint indicators in Life Cycle Assessments, to assess the impact of the full life cycle of products. No specific software is required. Calculations can be done with the free available dose-response relations in a normal spreadsheet. Although a company might basically be able to work with the method itself, support is recommended by someone who is acquainted with the methodology and who knows how and where to find the required data.

Do you want to know your impact on biodiversity and what you can do to prevent or limit it?

Contact: Wilbert van Rooij of Plansup:

More information on the methodology and case studies can be found here
and on the Wageningen University and Research website on the Biodiverse Business page.

May 2017: Reports and factsheet on Footprint companies studies

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on biodiversity and natural capital. This may result from their implicit dependence on natural capital, from increasingly more critical consumers, or from the genuine concern of company managers and owners. Consequently, companies have an increasing need for tools to enable them to gain insight into their impact on biodiversity, and to measure and assess the effects of measures to limit this impact.

Plansup has developed in collaboration with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), CREM and JSScience a biodiversity footprint methodology. Studies were initiated by The Natural Captains project of the Platform Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Economy (Platform BEE). This Platform is stimulating companies to translate thinking and working with natural capital into tangible actions. This means making visible the impact of their activities on biodiversity and natural capital in terms of their biodiversity footprint. One way to assess a company’s impact on biodiversity is to measure the biodiversity footprint of their current activities and possibly also to compare this footprint with that of alternative measures.

Two studies have been carried out. In the first Plansup study (van Rooij, 2016) the established GLOBIO biodiversity impact assessment method by PBL has been adapted to determine the biodiversity impact of companies, and of their products and services. The resulting biodiversity footprint method was tested in three case studies and has now been extended and applied a further six case studies in the Natural Captains project. See for more information and the resulting study reports the Footprint companies web page of this website.

Based on these case studies, the method has been evaluated for wider application. For this purpose, a simplified Biodiversity Footprint Tool has been developed in which the integrated impact of two pressure factors – land use and greenhouse gas emissions – can be uniformly determined. The tool is still under development but will be made operational soon in collaboration with IUCN. A description of the web tool can be found at the naturalcapitaltoolkit website.

Mongolia assessment March 2014: Technical note

Technical update on the Mongolia assessment carried out in March 2014
Shared with the Biodiversity Modelling Network (BMN) on Linked In

Published on 1-4-2014

Hello all,

Underneath an overview of assumptions and equations that I have been using for my latest GLOBIO3 assessment of the current biodiversity in Mongolia that I carried out early March 2014.

Land use
The land use in Mongolia is quite deviating from that of other developing countries. Over 80% of the country is used for grazing. These are natural to semi natural grasslands in a scala of different landscapes, such as mountain taiga, mountain steppe, forest steppe and desert steppe. As most current land cover and land use maps of Mongolia do not distinguish different grassland use intensities a method had to be developed to classify this land use type into different intensity classes. Therefore I created a grazing intensity map made by a combination of livestock consumption map and a fodder production map. Katalin Petz uses a similar approach in her dissertation for the Wageningen University that was published this year:

For livestock I used FAO livestock maps and national statistical data on livestock in Mongolia. First I converted the different livestock units for Cattle, Sheep and Goat into so called Sheep units and made one Sheep unit map. Secondly I used statistical data on Cattle, Horses, Camels, Sheep and Goat per province (Aimag) to correct the total sheep unit map. With data on the average yearly consumption per Sheep unit a average consumption map could be made.

In 1981 the Russians made a fodder production map for Mongolia. As the general land use in Mongolia has hardly changed over the last decades I assumed that this fodder production map is still valid.

By dividing the two maps by a raster calculation a grazing intensity map was created with 6 grazing intensity classes; 4 classes on natural rangelands: no grazing (MSA_nr = 1), light grazing (MSA_nr = 0.9), moderate grazing (MSA_nr = 0.7), intensive grazing (MSA_nr = 0.6), and two classes on degraded rangelands: very intensive grazing (MSA_nr = 0.5), and overgrazing (MSA_nr = 0.3).

This classification was used in combination with the latest global MSA rangeland table to address local MSA_land use values which are mentioned in brackets behind the local rangeland classes.

The global GLOBIO3 rangeland MSA table distinguishes 5 types of rangeland: Natural Rangeland (MSA_rl = 1), Moderately used rangelands (MSA_rl = 0.6), Intensively used rangelands (MSA_rl = 0.5), Man made grasslands (MSA_rl = 0.3) and Ungrazed abandoned rangelands (MSA_rl = 0.7).

In addition to rangeland classes the following land use types could be distinguished for Mongolia: Extensive cropland (MSA_crl = 0.3), Urban area (MSA_urb = 0.05), Natural forest (MSA_nfor = 1), Natural bare <glaciers and rock outcrop> (MSA_nb = 1) and Mining (MSA_min = 0.3).

The pressure caused by Infrastructure is calculated based on the direct pressure from roads and the indirect pressure around urban, agricultural and mining areas in Mongolia.

The width of the impact zones was set to 5 km around roads and to 10 km around the mentioned impact areas. In previous assessments an infrastructure tool was used to distinguish the impact along roads by zone and population pressure, but this methodology is not used in GLOBIO3 anymore. Instead the direct and indirect impact is calculated separately and then combined. For the calculation of direct impact on natural forests I used the following equation: Con(“Rd_dist” > 5000, 1, (2.0 * ( Exp(-3.99998 + 1.093457 * Ln(“Rd_dist”) ) / (1 + Exp(-3.99998 + 1.093457 * Ln(“Rd_dist”)))) + 4.0) / 6.0) and for the direct impact of roads in non-forest natural areas I used: Con(“road_dist”) > 5000, 1, (2.0 * ( Exp(-8.861673 + 1.697327 * Ln(“road_dist”) ) / (1 + Exp(-8.861673 + 1.697327 * Ln(“road_dist”)))) + 4.0) / 6.0). Note that the /(+4.0/6.0) part is added to the equations because the cause-effect relation is only known for 2 species groups (birds and mammals) out of 6 species groups that would be needed to give a more representative result of the impact on biodiversity.

For the calculation of indirect infrastructure pressure around urban, agricultural and mining areas I used the following equation: exp(-0.25+0.000103 * Dist)/(1+exp(-0.25+0.000103 * Dist))

See for more detail on these calculations the paper:

The calculation of fragmentation in Mongolia is carried out for clusters of nature that are dissected by major roads and other land use. The relation by natural area and MSA_fragm is calculated via the following relation:

Cluster size                       MSA
0-1                                        0.35
1-10                                      0.45
10-100                                 0.65
100-1000                             0.9
1000-10000                         0.98
>=10000                              1

Nitrogen deposition
This pressure is in general absent in Mongolia. Only in the area near the capital city of Ulaan Baatar Nitrogen deposition will be high as air pollution is high due to traffic, coil stoves in the houses and the large coil fueled electricity plants. If a map of Nitrogen deposition had been acquired the following calculation would have been applied:  first calculating the exceedence of Nitrogen: N exeedence = Nitrogen deposition – Critical load. The cause-effect relations are known for three ecosystems: Arctic-Alpine ecosystem, Boreal coniferous forest and Grassland by applying resp the following equations: MSA_nitro = 0.9 – 0.05 NExceed; MSA_nitro  = 0.8 – 0.14 ln (NExceed); MSA_nitro  = 0.8 – 0.08 ln (NExceed). Global maps of Nitrogen deposition and Critical loads can be acquired freely from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

However, detailed information on Nitrogen deposition around Ulaan Baatar was missing and therefore the impact of this pressure has been omitted for this assessment.

The impact of climate in Mongolia is calculated with help of information on global temperature increase (OECD) and known impact of temperature increase on 15 climate related biomes. Underneath the tables that I used for the calculation of climate change for the year 2007 in in Mongolia:

Temperature increase table (4 february 2014, OECD scenario)

Year      Degrees C
1970      0.241
1975      0.267
1980      0.353
1985      0.448
1990      0.558
1995      0.670
2000      0.777
2005      0.888
2010      1.005
2015      1.152
2020      1.325
2025      1.499
2030      1.680
2035      1.865
2040      2.053
2045      2.242
2050      2.433

Relation climate change and biome

Biome (climate)                                 New Slope Values (Slope (oC-1))
Ice                                                          3.56
Tundra                                                  4.26
Wooded tundra                                   4.26
Boreal forest                                        3.67
Cool conifer forest                            11.27
Temperate mixed forest                    4.87
Temperate deciduous forest             7.1
Warm mixed forest                           14.57
Grassland and steppe                       12.01
Hot desert / desert                             12.01
Scrubland                                                6.6
Savanna                                                   7.75
Tropical woodland                               10.75
Tropical forest                                       10.75
Mediterannean shrub                            6.61

The slopes in the above table have been used to calculate the MSA_clim for Mongolia: MSA_clim = 1 – (Slope * Δtemperature)/100.

Please note that the equations and assumptions used by me for the Mongolia assessment do not have to be the most recent ones. These are or will be mentioned with publication references on the official GLOBIO3 website:

I will let you know when a new publication is published on the website.

Please also share your experiences, assumptions and results of your GLOBO3 assessments on the Biodiversity Modelling Network (BMN) so that we can learn from each other’s experiences!

Kind regards,
Wilbert van Rooij