Is the ecosystem service concept improving impact assessment? Evidence from recent international practice — new paper by Sales Rosa and Sánchez

Josianne Clau­dia Sales Rosa and Luis E. Sánchez  have pub­lished a new paper on Is the ecosys­tem ser­vice con­cept improv­ing impact assess­ment? Evi­dence from recent inter­na­tional prac­tice” in Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Assess­ment Review (Vol­ume 50, Jan­u­ary 2015, Pages 134–142). You can assess the full paper online here and find the abstract copied below.


Con­sid­er­ing ecosys­tem ser­vices (ES) could fos­ter inno­va­tion and improve envi­ron­men­tal and social impact assess­ment (ESIA) prac­tice, but is the poten­tial being ful­filled? In order to inves­ti­gate how ES have been treated in recent inter­na­tional prac­tice, three ques­tions are asked: (i) were the tasks of an ES analy­sis car­ried out? (ii) how is such analy­sis inte­grated with other analy­sis pre­sented in the ESIA? (iii) does ES analy­sis result in addi­tional or improved mit­i­ga­tion or enhance­ment mea­sures? These research ques­tions were unfolded into 15 aux­il­iary ques­tions for review­ing five ESIA reports pre­pared for min­ing, hydro­elec­tric and trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture projects in Africa, Asia and South Amer­ica. All cases incor­po­rated ES into ESIA to meet a require­ment of the Inter­na­tional Finance Corporation’s Per­for­mance Stan­dards on Envi­ron­men­tal and Social Sus­tain­abil­ity. It was found that: (i) in only three cases most tasks rec­om­mended by cur­rent guid­ance were adopted (ii) all reports fea­ture a ded­i­cated ES chap­ter or sec­tion, but in three of them no evi­dence was found that the ES analy­sis was inte­grated within impact assess­ment (iii) in the two ESIAs that fol­lowed guid­ance, ES analy­sis resulted in spe­cific mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures. Few evi­dence was found that the ES con­cept is improv­ing cur­rent ESIA prac­tice. Key chal­lenges are: (i) inte­grat­ing ES analy­sis in such a way that it does not dupli­cate other analy­sis; (ii) ade­quately char­ac­ter­iz­ing the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of ES; and (iii) quan­ti­fy­ing ES sup­ply for impact prediction.


Is the ecosystem service concept improving impact assessment? Evidence from recent international practice — new paper by Sales Rosa and Sánchez — 2 Comments

  1. Dear Mar­i­anne
    Your Bio­di­ver­sity off­set Blog is quite timely and the con­cept that you have dis­sam­i­nated to us on the Ecosys­tem ser­vices con­cept improv­ing is also very relavant.However the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion has became an out­dated the­ory and the use of Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Assess­ment itself is not suf­fi­cient to achieve susten­abil­ity as has been indi­cated by the out come of the appi­ca­tion of ESIA for last 30 years.However, the great­est treat to human­ity is the preval­ing poverty.SO why not con­nect ecosys­tem ser­vices for the reduc­tion of the poverty by proper man­age­ment of ecosys­tem resources and its ser­vices. Now this is the time to go for devel­op­ing more effec­tive econ­omy through the proper man­age­ment of Ecosys­tem ser­vices and help to reduce worlds poverty in a com­pren­sive ways. In this case I have writ­ten a con­cept for Nepal and included in linkedin post.
    Ram Khadka

    • Dear Ram,
      Many thanks for your detailed reply and rea­son­ing! While it is cer­tainly (and sadly) true that EIA alone can­not achieve sus­tain­abil­ity (for me, it is not the most impor­tant tool to do so, rather part of a “tool­box”), I wouldn’t con­sider pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion an out­dated the­ory at all. What we cer­tainly need is a new under­stand­ing of the com­plex­ity of our envi­ron­ment and our own actions. This can­not con­cen­trate on one thing, but has to include con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion as well as restora­tion and impact mit­i­ga­tion — and pos­si­bly most impor­tantly it must focus on the inter­link­ages (e.g. between less envi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing prac­tices and poverty reduc­tion). But we should be aware that the max­i­mum achiev­able are com­pro­mises and a more or less out­bal­anced sit­u­a­tion between the three pil­lars of sus­tain­abil­ity — and noth­ing such as eco­nomic boom or bloom (if we’re at that point, you can’t really talk sus­tain­abil­ity).
      Any­way, “proper man­age­ment of ecosys­tem ser­vices” sounds sim­ple but is actu­ally a hard task — so I’ll very much appre­ci­ate if you could share your expe­ri­ences. Can you post the link to your LinkedIn post?

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