Yousefi, M.; Darvishi, A.; Tello, E. et al. 2021. “Comparison of two biophysical indicators under different landscape complexity”. Ecological Indicators


Ecological Footprint (EF) and Energy-Landscape Integrated Analysis (ELIA) estimate human societies’ imprint on nature. Both methods aim to provide overviews regarding biophysical society–nature interactions. The purposes of this article are to compare how EF and ELIA conceptualize human-nature relationships, and what results they produce when applied to the same landscape scale, in order to consider how their methodological similarities and differences can account for Land Use and Cover Change (LUCC). This conceptual comparison acknowledges the “ecocentric” perspective of EF adopted to relate end consumption baskets of human populations with the land biocapacities, and the “social metabolism” perspective of ELIA to take into account biophysical transformations and spatial distribution of matter-energy flows in different land uses. The two methods were applied to a case study of 46 municipalities in the Qazvin Province (Iran). These municipalities were grouped according to the values of the two methods by cluster analysis and correlated with landscape heterogeneity. The correlation analysis demonstrates that EF and ELIA indicators only overlap when landscape structure is highly simplified. However, lower accuracy of EF compared to ELIA as an indicator of socioecological impacts of different types of agricultural practices is confirmed. Although EF remains a useful indicator of unequal appropriation of Earth’s biocapacity, it does so by taking average patterns of food production and consumption as given. To distinguish environmentally friendly from degrading practices, more precise indicators at the landscape level such as ELIA are required for farmers, consumers and policymakers to choose more sustainable options in their decisions.