Ecological footprint

• The Ecological Footprint is a resource accounting tool that measures how much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available.
• Productive land and sea areas support human demands for food, fibre, timber, energy, and space for infrastructure. These areas also absorb the waste products from the human economy. The Ecological Footprint measures the sum of these areas, wherever they physically occur on the planet.

What does the Ecological Footprint measure?

• The Ecological Footprint measures the amount of biologically productive land and water area an individual, a city, a country, a region, or all of humanity uses to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates with today’s technology and resource management practices.
• Ecological Footprints can be calculated for individual people, groups of people (such as a nation), and activities (such as manufacturing a product).
• The Ecological Footprint of a person is calculated by considering all of the biological materials consumed, and all of the biological wastes generated, by that person in a given year.
• These materials and wastes each demand ecologically productive areas, such as cropland to grow potatoes, or forest to sequester fossil carbon dioxide emissions.
• All of these materials and wastes are then individually translated into an equivalent number of global hectares.


• An amount of material consumed by that person (tons per year) is divided by the yield of the specific land or sea area (annual tons per hectare) from which it was harvested, or where its waste material was absorbed.
• The numbers of hectares that result from this calculation are then converted to global hectares using yield and equivalence factors.
• The sum of the global hectares needed to support the resource consumption and waste generation of the person gives that person’s total Ecological Footprint.

How the Footprint Works?

Ecological Footprint accounting measures the demand on and supply of nature.

• On the demand side, the Ecological Footprint measures the ecological assets that a given population requires to produce the natural resources it consumes (including plant-based food and fibre products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure) and to absorb its waste, especially carbon emissions.
• On the supply side, a city, state or nation’s bio capacity represents the productivity of its ecological assets (including cropland, grazing land, forest land, fishing grounds, and built-up land). These areas, especially if left unharvested, can also absorb much of the waste we generate, especially our carbon emissions.
The Ecological Footprint tracks the use of six categories of productive surface areas: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, built-up land, forest area, and carbon demand on land.

Practice question:

1. Which of the following defines the term ecological overshoot?

a) It measures the impact of human activities on ocean resources.

b) It occurs when a population’s demand on an ecosystem exceeds the capacity of that ecosystem to regenerate the resources it consumes and absorb its wastes.

c) It depict the capacity of ecosystems to provide useful natural resources as well as to absorb waste generated by human manufacturing.

d) None of the above

Answer- b
Exp: Ecological overshoot occurs when a population’s demand on an ecosystem exceeds the capacity of that ecosystem to regenerate the resources it consumes and absorb its wastes. Ecological footprint is often used to calculate global overshoot which occurs when man’s demand on the biosphere exceeds the available biological capacity of the planet. Ecological overshoot leads to the depletion of the planet’s life supporting biological capital and to an accumulation of waste products.