Biodiversity offsets: from current challenges to harmonized metrics — new paper by Gonçalves et al presents a literature review

Bár­bara Gonçalves, Alexan­dra Mar­ques, Amadeu Mortágua Velho Da Maia Soares and  Hen­rique Miguel Pereira have pub­lished a new paper enti­tled Bio­di­ver­sity off­sets: from cur­rent chal­lenges to har­mo­nized met­rics” in a Spe­cial Issue of Cur­rent Opin­ion in Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity (Vol­ume 14, June 2015, Pages 61–67). The arti­cle is based on a review of sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets. You can read the full arti­cle on the Jour­nal web­site (pay-walled). For more infor­ma­tion see also the high­lights and abstract below.


  • Bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are a com­pen­sa­tion tool that uses a com­mon metric.
  • We reviewed the sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture on bio­di­ver­sity offsetting.
  • most com­mon chal­lenges are cur­rency and loca­tion of the offsets.
  • essen­tial Bio­di­ver­sity Vari­ables’ roles for off­sets include com­pa­ra­bil­ity across locations.


Bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are com­pen­satory mech­a­nisms increas­ingly used to address eco­log­i­cal impacts result­ing from human activ­i­ties. We review the sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets, pub­lished between 1999 and 2014. We found that bio­di­ver­sity off­set stud­ies have increased through time. The major­ity of stud­ies have been car­ried out in the USA. The devel­op­ment of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets schemes faces con­cep­tual and prac­ti­cal chal­lenges. The con­cep­tual chal­lenges dis­cussed in the lit­er­a­ture are: choice of met­ric, spa­tial deliv­ery of off­sets, equiv­a­lence, addi­tion­al­ity, tim­ing, longevity, ratios and reversibil­ity. The prac­ti­cal chal­lenges reported in the lit­er­a­ture are: com­pli­ance, mon­i­tor­ing, trans­parency and tim­ing of cred­its release. Amongst these, choice of met­ric and loca­tion are para­mount and are related to the mul­ti­di­men­sional nature of bio­di­ver­sity and the val­ues soci­ety places on bio­di­ver­sity. Har­mo­nized met­rics such as the Essen­tial Bio­di­ver­sity Vari­ables (EBVs) help to address these chal­lenges by pro­vid­ing com­pa­ra­bil­ity of bio­di­ver­sity loss and gain amongst locations.

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