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BioBanking: an environmental scientist’s view of the role of biodiversity banking offsets in conservation

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Offsets, first formalised in the United States of America in the 1970s for wetland mitigation, are now widely used globally with the aim to mitigate loss of biodiversity due to development. Embracing biodiversity offsets is one method of governments to meet their commitments under the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Resource extraction companies see them as a method of gaining access to land, while the community may perceive them as a way of enhancing environmental outcomes. In New South Wales, Australia, BioBanking legislation was introduced in late 2006 with the aim of ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity associated with development, particularly expanding urban and coastal development. The strengths of the legislation are that it aims to enhance threatened species conservation, and raise the profile of conservation of threatened species and habitats. Weaknesses include (1) the narrowness of the definition of biodiversity; (2) the concepts are based on a flawed logic and immature, imprecise and complex science which results in difficulties in determining biodiversity values; (3) likely problems with management and compliance; and (4) an overall lack of resources for implementation and long-term monitoring. It is concluded that the legislation is a concerted effort to deal with biodiversity loss, however, stakeholders have concerns with the process, and it is unworkable with the complexity of such ecosystems (compared for example to carbon credit trading), and underdeveloped disciplines such as restoration biology and ecology. Despite these criticisms, there is a need for all stakeholders to work to improve the outcomes.

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This paper would not have been conceived, at least in its present form, if I had not been asked to present at the Ecological Consultants Association of New South Wales Annual Conference at Katoomba (Australia). The background research for the presentation, and the participants and speakers at the conference provided fruitful discussion and this laid the paper’s foundations. I would also like to thank colleagues Danny Wotherspoon, Tony Webb and Basant Maheshwari for their thoughtful discussion during the development of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shelley Burgin.

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Burgin, S. BioBanking: an environmental scientist’s view of the role of biodiversity banking offsets in conservation. Biodivers Conserv 17, 807–816 (2008).

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