What Is an Ecological Footprint?

An ecological footprint measures the amount of resources the lifestyle of a given person demands of the planet.


The ecological footprint can be described as the measure of human impact on the Earth’s ecosystem measured by the area of wilderness or the amount of capital consumed each year. Ecological footprints can be used to estimate the rapid depletion of the natural capital on a global scale.

How to Measure An Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprints are measured in global hectares. Biocapacity and ecological footprints are calculated by finding out the yield factor for a particular piece of land in a particular country, showing the relative productivity of a particular piece of land.

Thereafter, one calculates the biocapacity of that land then multiply the area in (hectares) by the yield factor and by the equivalent factor (the equivalent factor represents the relative productivity of a particular type of land to the world average productivity of all land). The result represents the biocapacity that accounts for the area of the land, the type of the land, and the geographical location of the land.

Finally, calculating the ecological footprint of a nation, multiply the yield and the equivalent factors by the ratio of tonnage to each type of land being used. (Tonnage- is the mass of products being consumed.Yield- is number of tons per hectare normally obtained from the country’s land type)

A comparison of the global hectares of biocapacity (supply) is then made to the global hectares of the footprint (demand) and an estimate of the ecological overshoot made.

The ecological footprint analysis is an indicator of environmental sustainability and can be used to measure and manage the use of resources in an economy and explore the sustainability of individual lifestyles and organizations.

Factors Affecting Ecological Footprints

Human practices that lead to global warming and air pollution also increase an ecological footprint. These include practices such as using cars that emit harmful gasses, leaving lights on, or the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Limitations Of Ecological Footprints

Ecological indicators are used to communicate information about the challenges that ecosystems face, such as lack of methodological standards on the international scale, variable availability of information on local and international scale, a different ranking of indicators on an international scale, lack of reference levels, overlapping of indicator measures among other problems.

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