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Accounting for no net loss: A critical assessment of biodiversity offsetting metrics and methods

Carreras Gamarra, Maria Jose, Lassoie, James Philip, Milder, Jeffrey
Journal of environmental management 2018 v.220 pp. 36-43
accounting, biodiversity, decision making, decision support systems, systematic review
Biodiversity offset strategies are based on the explicit calculation of both losses and gains necessary to establish ecological equivalence between impact and offset areas. Given the importance of quantifying biodiversity values, various accounting methods and metrics are continuously being developed and tested for this purpose. Considering the wide array of alternatives, selecting an appropriate one for a specific project can be not only challenging, but also crucial; accounting methods can strongly influence the biodiversity outcomes of an offsetting strategy, and if not well-suited to the context and values being offset, a no net loss outcome might not be delivered. To date there has been no systematic review or comparative classification of the available biodiversity accounting alternatives that aim at facilitating metric selection, and no tools that guide decision-makers throughout such a complex process. We fill this gap by developing a set of analyses to support (i) identifying the spectrum of available alternatives, (ii) understanding the characteristics of each and, ultimately (iii) making the most sensible and sound decision about which one to implement. The metric menu, scoring matrix, and decision tree developed can be used by biodiversity offsetting practitioners to help select an existing metric, and thus achieve successful outcomes that advance the goal of no net loss of biodiversity.