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System Boundaries

Spatio-Temporal Scales

Spatio-Temporal Scales
Credit: Yulian Alexeyev via Unsplash

In impact assessment, the spatial and temporal scales are part of the system boundaries, that is the frame within which impacts are analysed. While boundaries that are drawn too wide will result in bloated data requirements, loss of focus and may obscure relevant findings amongst non-relevant data, boundaries that are drawn too narrow will cause misleading results because relevant impacts are not considered. Adequate definition of both spatial and temporal system boundaries is therefore essential. Leakage effects including indirect land use changes pose a particular challenge because they require a very wide boundary setting to be detected. A structured way to include effects at large spatial and temporal scales is life-cycle assessment (LCA). This approach is data intensive though, thereby limiting the number of impact categories that can be analysed.

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