The term biocapacity refers to the measure of the biological production capacity of a given territory or ecosystem, i.e. its capacity to generate renewable natural resources and to absorb the waste produced by human beings. It represents the amount of land and water needed to meet the resource needs and waste absorption of a specific population or human activity.
Biocapacity is calculated by considering several factors, including soil productivity, water availability, the ability of ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide and neutralize other pollutants, as well as the biodiversity present in the area. This measure is expressed in units of area (for example, hectares) and indicates the amount of land required to maintain a sustainable level of use of natural resources.
If the demand for resources and the release of waste exceed the biocapacity of a territory, an overburdened ecosystem occurs, meaning that the environment cannot sustainably support ongoing human activity. In this case, the population or business must rely on importing resources from other regions or on technology to compensate for the ecological deficit.
Biocapacity is a key concept in ecology and sustainable development, as it helps to evaluate the sustainability of human practices and to identify areas where more effective conservation and management measures need to be taken to maintain the balance between human activities and the natural environment.
Ultimately biocapacity is the ability of the ecosystem to produce natural resources and to absorb man-made waste material. Biocapacity represents the total extension of ecologically productive territory present in a given region, and therefore the potential capacity to provide natural services starting from local ecosystems.
The biocapacity of an area is calculated by multiplying the actual physical area by the yield factor and the appropriate equivalence factor. Biocapacity is usually expressed in units of global hectares.