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Arthur G Blundell* 1 and Tormod V Burkey* 2,3
1Biodiversity Neutral Initiative, 2102-1238 Melville Street, Vancouver, BC, V6E 4N2, Canada
2DNV Research, Veritasveien 1, N-1322 Høvik, Norway
3Current- Welhavensgate 19, N-0350 Oslo, Norway
Biodiversity offsets are conservation projects used mainly by business to counterbalance the environmental impacts of their operations, with the aim of achieving a net neutral or even beneficial outcome for biodiversity. Companies considering offsets need to know: (1) if there are areas of such biological importance that no impact is acceptable, and outside of these no-go areas, (2) the relative importance of biodiversity in the impacted site versus the site(s) proposed for protection, to ensure that the offset is of equal or greater status than that lost through the company’s operations. We compiled a database of 40 schemes that use various methods to assess conservation priorities, and we examined if the schemes would allow companies to answer the above questions.
Overall, schemes tend to be designed to guide conservation organizations in their own priority setting or they categorize species based on conservation status. Generally, the schemes do not provide all the necessary information for offsets because they operate at a broad spatial scale or with low spatial resolution, which make it difficult to assess sites at the project level. Furthermore, most schemes do not explicitly incorporate threat, which we consider key to assessing whether offsets protect habitats or species that would otherwise be lost (i.e., provide additionality). The schemes are useful, however, for identifying the major conservation issues in different ecosystems around the globe.
Companies can proceed by first avoiding, reducing, and mitigating impacts, and then using existing schemes to identify i) no-go areas and ii) appropriate offsets to compensate for any unavoidable loss in biodiversity. If existing schemes are inadequate, then companies should use integrated conservation planning techniques to define offset options within the region of their operations.
BMC Ecology 2007, 7:10. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).