Impact assessment is the ‘the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action’ (IAIA, 2009). At its heart, impact assessment aims to provide information for decision-making. Biodiversity underpins the delivery of ecosystem services that are fundamental for our well-being. Integrative impact frameworks are being proposed to include the effects of development on ecosystem services and human well-being, along with more traditional biodiversity conservation issues. Recent research and practice has shown the emerging interest in this area, but also the many open challenges. This Handbook addresses the consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in impact assessment by providing a critical analysis of some of the latest research and practice in this field. The book was written to support researchers and practitioners in the conceptual development, and operational implementation of truly biodiversity and ecosystem services–inclusive impact assessment processes. As part of the Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series, the book provides a critical assessment of the research and thinking in this field, emerging from different parts of the world. The case studies presented in the chapters span the five continents, and a broad range of sectors and biomes. The Handbook is divided into four parts. Part I looks at how biodiversity and ecosystem services information can be mainstreamed in different impact assessment types to improve their salience and effectiveness. Part II presents a range of applications in key policy and planning sectors. Part III addresses selected issues and challenges in contemporary practice and research. Part IV summarizes the key messages and provides indications on the way forward.
The ultimate objective of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to help to protect the environment and promote sustainability, by ensuring that environmental considerations inform ‘strategic actions’, that is, policies, plans and programmes. There is a growing interest in the potential of SEA, and impact assessment in general, to mainstream ecosystem services concerns in decision-making, as shown by recent publications, reviews of practices, as well as legislation. Experiences in this field have begun to emerge in the last few years, showing the need for comprehensive guidance. This chapter addresses this need by proposing key analyses to mainstream ecosystem services information, as follows: • Building a conceptual framework for ecosystem services production and use in the study region, including analysis of relevant regulations, plans and policies. In the first stage, SEA needs to provide an understanding of the context within which the strategic action will be developed and implemented. This analysis aims at establishing the ‘ecosystem services context’, by identifying ecosystem services and beneficiaries for the strategic action region, and reviewing relevant regulations, plans and policies concerning these services. • Determining priority ecosystem services and assessing their baseline conditions and trends. In this SEA stage, scoping is performed to focus on the most relevant issues in the light of the context and the objectives of the strategic action. The analysis aim at identifying a limited set of priority ecosystem services (which are considered relevant for shaping and informing the development of the strategic action), and generating detailed information about these services. • Developing possible alternatives that enhance opportunities and reduce risks for ecosystem services, and assessing their impact. In this stage, the strategic action is taking shape and specific alternatives are proposed and compared to achieve the objectives of the action. The analysis aims at contributing to the development and assessment of the alternatives in order to promote the conservation of ecosystem services, or at least to minimize the negative impacts and propose mitigation and off-set measures. • Monitoring changes in the context and impacts on ecosystem services. This SEA stage begins when the strategic action has been approved. The analysis aims at understanding the effective impacts on ecosystem services associated to the implementation of the action, as well as relevant contextual changes. The ultimate purpose is to enable timely interventions and adjustments to the action to address detected problems. Each analysis builds on previous ones, even though the sequence is not intended to be followed strictly. SEA is an iterative process, and many analyses may take place in parallel or in a different order, or may need to be iterated during the process. The overall purpose of the proposed analyses is to ensure that all relevant information of ecosystem services is collected, processed and used to support decision-making effectively. The proposed analyses can be used in different contexts and for different types of SEA processes.
The contributions to the Handbook on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Impact Assessment illustrated the different ways in which information on biodiversity and ecosystem services can permeate different types of impact assessment, across many planning and policy sectors. The variety of case studies described in the Handbook provided examples of how this information is used to improve decision-making at all levels, from strategic choices to individual projects. This final chapter aims at summarizing some of the overarching lessons drawn from the Handbook. These lessons are articulated into two sections: addressing analyses and frameworks respectively. The first section presents an overview of the innovative methods, and the associated challenges, that have been proposed in the Handbook to improve impact analyses. The second section expands the perspective and discuss the new or enriched frameworks that emerge from the different chapters, and the way in which they contribute to better decisions, by enhancing the consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in impact assessment. The chapters of this Handbook highlighted the diversity of approaches that are being developed to strengthen the consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in impact assessment. They also demonstrated their applicability in different contexts and sectors the world over. It is my hope that this Handbook will help practitioners and researchers to improve the practice of this evolving field, and contribute to better decisions about the use of our lands and waters.
Edited by Davide Geneletti
Ainhoa González and Davide Geneletti
The intrinsic spatial nature of environmental assessment and, indeed, most planning decisions can significantly benefit from GIS-based analyses and outcomes. GIS can provide a robust evidence-base to support consistent, transparent and informed assessments and decisions. While the uptake of GIS in SEA is growing, their application remains basic, supporting in particular certain procedural stages such as scoping or the definition of the baseline environment. Spatial analysis approaches, incorporating environmental sensitivity, impact absorption capacity and risks, as well as ecosystem services considerations are however progressively being developed and applied in the assessment of alternatives, albeit much of these approaches are linked to research rather than practice. In all cases, data quality and scale limitations remain affecting the applicability and, indeed, the outputs of GIS in SEA. Nevertheless, there is a clear trend towards a proactive adoption of GIS approaches to support SEA and the steadfast improvement of spatial data coupled with technological advancements suggest a methodological shift in SEA approaches from traditional expert knowledge matrix-based methods to more objective, consistent and geographically-explicit analyses. This chapter explores the trajectory of GIS applications in SEA, and examine how GIS can support the various SEA stages. It identifies and discusses opportunities and limitations, and concludes with a set of recommendations to effectively and efficiently embed GIS in order to optimise their application in and contribution to SEA.
Lydia Lamorgese and Davide Geneletti
Davide Geneletti and Valentina Ferretti
Dilys Roe and Davide Geneletti
This chapter starts by presenting a conceptual framework to guide thinking about the interactions between different components or attributes of biodiversity and different dimensions of poverty. The framework recognizes that both biodiversity and poverty are complex, multi-dimensional concepts and, furthermore, that the interactions between the two are mediated by a wide range of factors. In particular, cross-cutting determinants such as governance, policies on poverty and biodiversity protection, and population growth and density that are associated with the socio-economic context and are critical in determining whether or not biodiversity leads to actual poverty reduction. The chapter then continues by reviewing the existing evidence base on biodiversity–poverty linkages, drawing on a systematic mapping of the published and grey literature. The findings of the review are used to formulate key distinctions that help to understand whether and how biodiversity helps in alleviating poverty. The chapter concludes by identifying some key issues that should be addressed in biodiversity impact assessment of any planned development interventions if the subsequent implications for poverty are to be taken into account: (1) un-pack ‘biodiversity’, and clarify which are the most important components of biodiversity for poor people; (2) unpack ‘poverty’, by identifying its different dimensions and disaggregating the potential impacts of the planned intervention on each of them; (3) understand the way in which poor people extract values from biodiversity, so as to predict the effects on these processes that the planned intervention is likely to cause, for example, in terms of reducing the quality or quantity of a given resource or generating biodiversity ‘dis-services’.
Davide Geneletti, Linda Zardo and Chiara Cortinovis
Climate change is expected to be an increasingly important source of impacts on biodiversity, both directly and in combination with other activities and phenomena, such as land use change, habitat fragmentation, and biological disruption. The complexity of Biodiversity Impact Assessment under climate change is increased by the fact that the effects are difficult to generalize, given that the timing, direction, and magnitude of the expected shifts in habitat differ among species, regions, and habitat types. In addition, the prediction of climate change is inherently uncertain. In the light of all these uncertainty factors, an important role that impact assessment processes can play is the promotion of ‘nature-based solutions’ for climate change adaptation. Nature-based approaches are no-regret options that offer the flexibility required for dealing with a changing climate, and the associateD uncertainties. Impact assessment processes that support urban planning, such as particularly Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), can help to promote the proposal and implementation of nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in cities, as well to compare the expected effectiveness of these solutions with regard to more traditional approaches. This chapter aims at providing some insights and examples related to this topic, particularly by: Presenting the findings of a review of the extent to which nature-based solutions for climate adaptation are currently included in planning documents at the urban scale. Illustrating a methodology to increase the evidence base that planners have at their disposal to develop and compare nature-based solutions. Specifically, this methodology concerns the analysis of the potential cooling effects of green urban infrastructures. Testing the methodology in two applications related to impact assessment of urban planning for a case study in the city of Trento, Italy. Drawing some conclusions and recommendations for future practice and research in this area.