This month, a newly developed free, open-source, stand-alone software tool to calculate environmental losses and gains was released. Being part of the work of the Natural Capital Project, OPAL (Offset Portfolio Analyzer and Locator) enables users to estimate the impacts of development activities on terrestrial ecosystems and several of the services they provide, and then to select offsets to efficiently mitigate losses. OPAL tracks how people are affected by the environmental impacts of development and mitigation activities. OPAL is a generalized and flexible version of MAFE-T, a tool that Natural Capital Project created to help developers and government agencies design mitigation activities to meet the requirements of Colombia’s offset policy in a socially equitable way. Now, with OPAL, similar analyses can be completed in locations outside of Colombia. It thus aims to provide more effective accounting of the impacts of development projects and offers possible remedies to the ecological damage they cause. The tool is said to be especially useful for conducting rapid assessments of multiple development projects and offset options. Find below a brief illustration of how OPAL works (if you try it out yourself, I’d appreciate if you could please leave a comment — I haven’t tried it myself, so far) as well as some general information. For more information, please see the official OPAL website or the the brochure (OPAL_Brochure).
How OPAL works
OPAL combines widely available ecological and social data along with Natural Capital Project’s spatially explicit InVEST ecosystem service models to recommend offset parcels based on flexible, user-defined criteria.
- OPAL 1.0.0 was released on December 3, 2014. This is the initial public release.
- Microsoft Windows. Tested on Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows 8, but may work on previous versions.
- It is helpful, but not required, to have a GIS tool like ArcGIS or Quantum GIS to explore the results.
OPAL Software Download
The software can be downloaded for free here.
Support is available through the community of users, scientists and developers at the NatCap Forums.