Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ecological Footprint and Bio -Capacity: Accounting of Non-tangible environmental services:

Increased awareness about environmental issues including global warming, deforestation, pollution etc have resulted not only  in depth analysis of these issues but also motivated the researchers to devise methods to quantify  the services provided by the nature. In contrast to economic indicator or GDP  , the latest tools for measuring  ecological values of various services have facilitated  to accord more  priority to  the environmental sector for policy makers and  administrators to tune their interventions in order to make them more sustainable and eco friendly.

These two measures are Ecological footprint and Bio- capacity and also called as "EF" and "BC" in short.

The ecological footprint(EF) is a measure of the load imposed by a given population on nature. In other words it is the area of the earth which is  required to  meet the levels of resource consumption  on sustainable basis including waste discharge by that population.

Bio-capacity (BC) in simple words means the   biological productive capacity of a resource. (e.g. agriculture land, pasture, forest, productive sea).

Both the Ecological Footprint and bio-capacity are measured in terms of global hectares (g ha), which represent a hectare of land with average productive bio-capacity.

In other words  EF and BC are equivalent  to the economic concepts of demand and supply. When used together, they form the EF/BC accounts. EF/BC accounting is frequently referred to only as EF accounting.

The EF/BC accounts are formed by combining the EF and the BC, thereby turning the approach into a more complete accounting tool for natural  resources. The algebraic difference between BC and EF is called Ecological Deficit, if it is negative or Ecological Reserve if it is positive.

In 2008, the Earth’s total bio-capacity was 12.0 billion gha, or 1.8 gha per person, while humanity’s Ecological Footprint was 18.2 billion gha, or 2.7 gha per person. This discrepancy means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people used in one year.

Global Foot Print networks has assessed the trends in Ecological foot print and bio capacity per person between 1961 & 2008 which is shown below.

The major issues concerning both the EF and BC are that while the increasing GHG emissions and other environmental problems  causing  increasing  global temperatures, climate change, land  degradation and ocean acidification putting enormous  stresses on biodiversity and ecosystems. This   affects the bio-capacity of the earth very badly.  Same time the increased exploitation of resources for burgeoning population is increasing the EF at an unprecedented rate. The more is the gap between the EF and BC ,more we are near to exhausting  our  resources and collapse of ecosystems due to this overshoot i.e., shortfall in earth’s biological capacity  to meet the consumption demands of all humanity. 


  1. A very informative blog post. It's a bit technical, but you have done well to make it understandable to common people.

    Environment is today a live topic. Our very existence is dependent on good environment.

    I suggest you post articles (small ones, if you don't get enough time) on common issues about environment and ecology.

  2. The graph in your blog looks really alarming. People who are still complacent must see this.
    We seem to have started the over-consumption in the seventies.