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Environmental Management

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 216–230 | Cite as

Ecological Equivalence Assessment Methods: What Trade-Offs between Operationality, Scientific Basis and Comprehensiveness?

  • Lucie Bezombes
  • Stéphanie Gaucherand
  • Christian Kerbiriou
  • Marie-Eve Reinert
  • Thomas Spiegelberger
Article

Abstract

In many countries, biodiversity compensation is required to counterbalance negative impacts of development projects on biodiversity by carrying out ecological measures, called offset when the goal is to reach “no net loss” of biodiversity. One main issue is to ensure that offset gains are equivalent to impact-related losses. Ecological equivalence is assessed with ecological equivalence assessment methods taking into account a range of key considerations that we summarized as ecological, spatial, temporal, and uncertainty. When equivalence assessment methods take into account all considerations, we call them “comprehensive”. Equivalence assessment methods should also aim to be science-based and operational, which is challenging. Many equivalence assessment methods have been developed worldwide but none is fully satisfying. In the present study, we examine 13 equivalence assessment methods in order to identify (i) their general structure and (ii) the synergies and trade-offs between equivalence assessment methods characteristics related to operationality, scientific-basis and comprehensiveness (called “challenges” in his paper). We evaluate each equivalence assessment methods on the basis of 12 criteria describing the level of achievement of each challenge. We observe that all equivalence assessment methods share a general structure, with possible improvements in the choice of target biodiversity, the indicators used, the integration of landscape context and the multipliers reflecting time lags and uncertainties. We show that no equivalence assessment methods combines all challenges perfectly. There are trade-offs between and within the challenges: operationality tends to be favored while scientific basis are integrated heterogeneously in equivalence assessment methods development. One way of improving the challenges combination would be the use of offset dedicated data-bases providing scientific feedbacks on previous offset measures.

Keywords

Biodiversity offset Ecological equivalence Ecological equivalence assessment methods No net loss Mitigation hierarchy Compensation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are thankful to Constance Bersok, Joseph William Bull, Cara Clark, Christian Küpfer, Frank Lupi, Charles K. Minns, Akira Tanaka, and all other experts who filled in the questionnaire, for their relevant comments and advice on Equivalence Assessment Methods. We also thank Serge Muller and Sylvain Pioch for their useful comments on an earlier draft of this article. This research was financed by the French government “CIFRE” grant for PhD students and Electricité de France (EDF).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

267_2017_877_MOESM1_ESM.docx (100 kb)
Supplementary Material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Grenoble AlpesSt-Martin-d’HèresFrance
  2. 2.EDF R&D, Laboratoire National d’Hydraulique et EnvironnementChatouFrance
  3. 3.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, UMR7204Center d’Ecologie et de Sciences de la ConservationParisFrance
  4. 4.European Institute for Energy ResearchKarlsruheGermany

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