OPAL – new free, open-source soft­ware tool to cal­cu­late envi­ron­men­tal losses and gains

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

how opal worksOPAL 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.

Release His­tory

  • OPAL 1.0.0 was released on Decem­ber 3, 2014. This is the ini­tial pub­lic release.

Sys­tem Requirements

  • 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.

User Guide

The OPAL user’s guide (OPAL User’s Guide v 1.0) is included with the installer. The cur­rent ver­sion of the User’s Guide can be down­loaded here: down­load (Eng­lish).


Sup­port is avail­able through the com­mu­nity of users, sci­en­tists and devel­op­ers at the Nat­Cap Forums.


OPAL – new free, open-source soft­ware tool to cal­cu­late envi­ron­men­tal losses and gains — 1 Comment

  1. I have been deal­ing with EIA projects requir­ing off­sets, so will try and make sure i got hold of this tool and if it works then wow.

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