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The environmental impact of the agricultural sector: assessment methodologies toward a circular economy perspective (2020)



ECTS credits:

Course parameters:
Language: English
Level of course: PhD course
Time of year: Fall 2020
No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: The course includes preparation by reading material of about 45h, 35h lectures, solving exercises related to the lectures and independent work 45h. Total work load about 125h.
Capacity limits: The course has a capacity limit of about 20 participants.

Objectives of the course:
The objective of the course is to introduce the students to state-of-the-art of the environmental impact of the agricultural sector and to do so in light of possibilities and shortcomings. The course will include an overview of the main environmental impacts generated the agricultural sector. In particular, the effect of the agricultural sector on greenhouse gas emissions, land, water and heavy metals will be addressed. Moreover, a detailed introduction of the methodologies/indicators used to estimate the environmental impact of the agricultural sector will be provided. Several case studies at different level of analysis (global, national, product) will be investigated. The students will receive a basic understanding of the applied assessment techniques with practical exercises. The course will also include training of the students’ in presenting research in the form of short oral presentations at international workshops and conferences.

Learning outcomes and competences:
At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  • Know the main environmental impacts associate with the agricultural sector
  • Discuss impact of agriculture on health, environment and climate
  • Know the basis of various methodologies/indicators estimating the agricultural impacts
  • Select a monitoring strategy for various types of agricultural impacts
  • Evaluate the agricultural impacts at different level of analysis
  • Discuss the strengths and weakness of various impact assessments
  • Understand the basic data sources and approaches for data analysis
  • Interpret results from various measurements

Compulsory programme:
The lecturing takes place as a five days intensive course. Prior to the course the student are expected to have read the listed literature. During the course, the students will carry out basic assessments by using methodologies presented at the course. After the course, the students are asked for an exercise test in order to evaluate their course comprehension. In the material provided for the students there will be a short introduction to LCA, IPCC inventory methodology and virtual land and water trade calculation. In the exercise test, the students are expected to add explanatory text to demonstrate their understanding of the course.te their understanding of the exercises. Details on the exercises are given in the course description.

Course contents:
Session 1: Agricultural sector: ecological dynamics and impact sources. Dr. Dario Caro – Aarhus University.

Session 2: Life cycle assessment: the case study of an agricultural product. Prof. Marianne Thomsen - Aarhus University.

Session 3: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock sector: the GHG emission inventory. Dr. Dario Caro - Aarhus University.

Session 4: Virtual land and water trade. Dr. Dario Caro – Aarhus University.

Session 5: Land footprint. Dr. Thomas Kastner - Senckenberg biodiversity and climate research Centre.

Session 6: Emissions from land use change. Dr. Thomas Kastner - Senckenberg biodiversity and climate research Centre.

Session 7: Soil health and food safety: a circular economy perspective. Prof. Marianne Thomsen – Aarhus University.

Session 8: The carbon footprint of a Danish diet. Dr. Benedetto Rugani - Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology

Session 9: Biowaste Valorisation in a regenerative Circular BioeconomyProf. Marianne Thomsen – Aarhus University. 

Session 10: Alternative proteins as potential solution for a more sustainable agriculture. Prof Marianne Thomsen – Aarhus University.

Session 11: Plant-based diets and Health. Dr. Armando Perez-Cueto - Copenhagen University.

Session 12: Plant-based diets and Consumers. Dr. Armando Perez-Cueto - Copenhagen University.

The participants need to have a background in environmental/natural science at MSc level, but otherwise no prerequisites.

Name of lecturers: Dario Caro (AU), Marianne Thomsen (AU), Benedetto Rugani (LIST), Armando Perez-Cueto (KU), Thomas Kastner (Senckenberg biodiversity and climate research Centre).

Type of course/teaching methods:
The course includes class lectures and practical exercises.


Course homepage:

Course assessment:
The students will be asked for a final test exercise. The students will receive a diploma after participation completing the course.    

Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University, Denmark

Special comments on this course:
Participation in course: free

23-27 November 2020

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions the course will be given entirely online. Further information about the webinar platform will be provided later.    

Deadline for registration is 1 November 2020.

To register or if you have any questions, please contact Dario Caro, e-mail: dac@envs.au.dk.




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