Researchers rethink approaches to manage development impact

By on 8 April, 2020

Scientists say target-based ecological compensation provides greater certainty and clarity than contentious biodiversity offsetting methodology.

Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) have proposed an alternative approach to compensating for the ecological impact of development to biodiversity offsetting.

Having recently published their findings in the journal Conservation Letters, the scientists say that a target-based ecological compensation provides a greater degree of certainty that management of impacts from infrastructure, construction or resource extraction projects will contribute directly to broader conservation goals.

Dr. Jeremy Simmons from UQ says that while most countries now have, or are developing policies on biodiversity offsetting, the method of calculating losses for a project is complex, and most offsets result in an overall decline in biodiversity.

“Biodiversity offsetting is a form of compensation that typically aims to achieve an outcome in which there is ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity as a result of a particular development,” he said.

Dr. Simmons said the approach of target-based ecological compensation explicitly links compensatory requirements to biodiversity targets.

“Let’s say a country has committed to doubling the area of habitat for a particular threatened species,” he said.

“Under target-based ecological compensation, a project that causes a loss of 100 hectares of that species’ habitat would need to restore or recreate 200 hectares of that same species’ habitat.

“The project has created twice as much habitat as it destroyed, and therefore contributes to the jurisdiction’s target of doubling habitat availability for that species – it’s that simple.”

The framework was developed by an international working group and produced with the support of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), a collaboration of The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).

Dr. Simmons said that new draft targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity would require no net loss of natural ecosystems.

“Our approach suggests a way to achieve that, while recognising development projects that damage biodiversity are sometimes necessary,” he said.

“This approach harnesses the compensation that proponents of development are increasingly compelled to provide, generally at great cost and effort, towards the achievement of broader nature conservation goals like internationally-agreed targets.”

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