Ecosystem services and disservices of meat and dairy production: A systematic literature review

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Intensification of the food system and higher consumption of meat and dairy products has placed heavy pressure on the ecological infrastructure responsible for providing ecosystem services (ES). Agroecosystem management often focuses on yield optimization and loses sight of nature's contribution. This paper uses a systematic literature review and the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) typology to characterize the peer-reviewed literature on meat and dairy production between 2012 and 2021 on ES and ecosystem disservices (EDS). Nearly 64% of the articles included in the review explored the biophysical domain, primarily through life cycle assessment or biophysical measurements. Studies from Europe and South America account for two-thirds of all articles with 47% and 20%, respectively. Nearly 47% of the ES and EDS were reported from cattle, 8% from sheep and about 20% from mixed or unspecified sources. The two animal sources that account for most global meat production, poultry and pork, were significantly underrepresented in the review. Over 50% of ES and EDS reported in the literature were regulation and maintenance services. Global warming potential was the most frequently encountered EDS and was reported twenty-five times. Conceptual ambiguity surrounding EDS posed a challenge for synthesizing the ES/EDS reported in the literature. This review demonstrates the lack of a clear link between specific animals/animal rearing activities and ecosystem services. There is a need to map the interactions between the various capital inputs, management interventions and ES/EDS of livestock activity. The results reflect a need for standardized classification of ES, definition of EDS in an agroecosystem context and integration of ES perspective with various valuation methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101494
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by Rannsóknamiðstöð Íslands (Rannís) in relation to the Sustainable Healthy Diets project (grant no. 200221-5601).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

Other keywords

  • Agroecosystem
  • Co-production
  • Ecosystem disservices
  • Ecosystem services
  • Livestock


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