Landscape Alterations

The Impaakt Team

11 min Read Time | March 21st 2023

Key Takeaways

When rating the value, consider the absolute impact described - that is, the direct impact the company had on the land and its ecosystem, rather than other conjunctures linked to them or to the company.

When rating the scale of a company’s impact, take into consideration aspects such as the ha of land disturbed, the environmental sensitivity of the area impacted and the time it takes to rehabilitate the land.

Landscape Alteration is an externality caused by companies' processes. Therefore, this topic should be evaluated and rater with the company's Core Business Analysis (CBI) as a starting point.

How do companies' activities impact landscapes?

Industrial activities like agriculture, ranching, mining and construction alter landscapes. At Impaakt, we capture the related impacts through the topic of Landscape Alteration.

👉Note: Impact topics are a set of social and environmental impacts identified by the Impaakt Team to provide an additional layer of complex insight into measuring current impact. They range from general themes like Greenhouse Gas emissions and Job Creation to industry-specific topics such as Gentrification and Water Pollution. Check our Frameworks section for more information.

The main impacts related to Landscape alteration are landscape fragmentation; habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, all of which ultimately degrade ecosystem services.

Landscape fragmentation 🌲

Landscape fragmentation is the breaking up of a landscape into smaller patches. It can be caused by natural events (e.g. earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.) or by human activities like agriculture, urbanization, roads, and building infrastructures (dams, pipelines, power plants, etc.).

It disturbs or totally blocks the exchange of species, energy, material, and genes across a landscape leading to habitat degradation, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem services degradation.

Landscape fragmentation can reduce biodiversity by up to 75%, reduces biomass availability, and alters nutrient cycles.

Habitat degradation 🐒

Habitat degradation happens when a natural area is changed to a point where it can no longer provide the attributes that native species need to survive, like microclimate, food, soil conditions, luminosity, water, etc. These changes lead to habitats that are less suitable or even totally unsuitable for native species.

There are many human activities that can lead to habitat degradation, for example, modifications in the vegetation cover, changes in land use, crops, deforestation, pollution of water bodies, erosion, etc.

Biodiversity loss 🛤

The main drivers for biodiversity loss are human activities that change natural habits, such as agriculture, urbanization, resource exploitation, etc. Among these, land use changes, related to large-scale crops for food production, are one of the most impactful drivers, accounting for about 30% of the global biodiversity loss. Further, about 50% of the endangered species are threatened by large-scale agriculture.

A biodiversity hotspot is an area that, at the same time, has high biodiversity and is extremely threatened. Currently, there are 36 areas recognized as biodiversity hotspots, and, 22 of them present a severe biodiversity loss.

Ecosystem services degradation 🌾

An ecosystem is considered degraded by human activities when its structure and functions are changed impairing its capacity to provide services like climate regulation, pollination, erosion control, energy, fresh water, food, etc.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

SDG 15 Life on Land


✅ SDG 15 seeks to conserve, restore and sustainably use terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands in line with international agreements. Landscape Alterations relate to this goal.

✅ Category: landscape alterations are caused by companies’ processes (i.e. how they run their business), rather than their products (i.e. what they sell).

✅ ILG - Healthy Ecosystems: “maintenance of ecologically sound landscapes and seas for people and nature”

Sources: 1 | 2

Get familiar with the 5 steps to get started as an Impaakt rater

Before building skills for a specific topic, make sure to read our Knowledge Center: Rating for Impaakt. This resource outlines the 5 steps necessary to get started as a rater and provides key information about our metrics. By going through this guide, you will ensure that you are well-informed to provide accurate ratings on any given topic.

How to rate the topic:


Value is the absolute impact the topic has on the planet or society.

To assess the value you need to think about how positive or negative you consider the topic and the impact described.

The value is linked to the topic treated and not to the company’s specific impact. Thus, the value should hold some consistency across industries.

👉When deciding your rating on the value, ask yourself:

How negative do you consider impacts related to landscape alteration, like fragmentation, biodiversity loss, habitat loss, and ecosystem services degradation?


The scale is related to the company’s impact. It consists of three dimensions: Breadth, Depth, and Persistence.


The breadth captures the range or extent of the company’s impact and it is related to the quantitative part of the analysis.

When deciding the breadth, answer the following questions:

  • What is the reach of the impact?

  • Is the land disturbed by the company large (many ha, km) or small (few ha, km)?

👉Tip: the area of land disturbed captured by the analyses on the platform range roughly from dozens to millions of hectares, while linear lengths of disturbances range from dozens to hundreds of thousands.


Depth is related to the complexity and profundity of the impact described.

When deciding the depth, answer the following questions:

  • How harsh has the impact been?

  • Is the land disturbed significantly affecting habitat quality?

  • Has the impact affected endangered species?

  • Is it happening over ecologically relevant areas (e.g. biodiversity hotspots, preservation areas, etc.)?

👉Tip: the depth is related to the place where the impact happens. The depth is higher if the impact is over highly sensitive and vulnerable areas.


Persistence evaluates the impact of the company over time.

When deciding the persistence, answer the following questions:

  • How long-lasting is the impact described?

  • How long will it take for the altered ecosystem to recover?

👉Tip: persistence is linked to the characteristics of the impact described. How permanent is the fragmentation caused by a dam or a pipeline, for example?

Rating tips by experienced raters

Draw maximum benefits from "Landscape Alteration" with these helpful tips from our community:

  1. Read the analysis a few times to understand the context and industry impacts. 
  2. Research the topic further for deeper understanding - Ecosia is a good search engine for that.
  3. Develop a rating process by identifying data metrics in the analysis, grouping them into Impact Value and Impact Scale categories, and summarizing them with data points. 
  4. Rate only what is discussed in the analysis without bias. 
  5. Ask peers on The Rater Collective on Slack for opinions to gain more knowledge and develop as a rater.
  6. When submitting ratings, consider the following aspects under scale:
  • Breadth: the hectares of land disturbed; kilometres of lines travelled (for linear infrastructure companies such as railway companies), etc.
  • Depth: if the region is a biodiversity hotspot; if the company/industry has been linked to the decline in the abundance of species; the range (in km) by which the ecological impacts spreads, etc.

  • Persistence: how long it takes to rehabilitate/reclaim disturbed land; If the land disturbed results in the extinction of species (endemic species); the land reclamation rate and biodiversity conservation impact rather than company efforts alone, etc.


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