This is a guest post by Lucie Bezombes, doctoral student at EDF and IRSTEA (France). This comment is the expression of the author’s thoughts and experiences and as such is acknowledged as a fruitful contribution to the discussion on biodiversity offsets. If you want to react or clarify your own position (underpin or disprove Lucie’s reasoning), please leave a reply below!
An essential issue for biodiversity offset to achieve “no net loss” is to demonstrate ecological equivalence between losses caused by impacts and gains due to offset. Methods of equivalence evaluation have been developed worldwide to estimate biodiversity losses and gains so as to assess ecological equivalence and size offset measures. They have been developed in a country-specific environmental social-cultural policy and ecological contexts and are subsequently adapted only in these contexts. In France, no method has yet been imposed or suggested in legislation, which lead to heterogeneous offset practices.
- Thus, the aim of my PhD is to develop a method to evaluate ecological equivalence adapted to French context, taking into account all key equivalence considerations: ecological (what biodiversity is to assess? What indicators best represent this biodiversity?);
- spatial (how both impacted and offset sites are integrated in surrounding landscape?); temporal (how to take into account interim losses due to time lag in ecosystems maturation?);
- and uncertainties (what consideration of previous offset feedbacks to best size offset according to offset risks of failure?).
The method will be developed to be operational (the skill level required to implement the method is reasonably consistent with the current skill level of the environmental consultancy and public authority involved in environmental impact studies in the country, and that the method can be implemented in a small amount of time and at a reasonable cost), exhaustive (it takes account of all four above-mentioned key equivalence considerations, and that a maximum amount of necessary information is taken into account) and with scientific basis, to ensure objective assessment based on ecological theories and input from previous studies).
My PhD is financed by the French government “CIFRE” grant for PhD students and the Electricité de France (EDF) Research and Development Department. I also do my PhD in partnership with IRSTEA Grenoble (where I work most of the time) and the French National Museum of Natural History.