Research in Brief
Biodiversity offsetting is increasingly used as a mechanism to compensate unavoidable development impacts on biodiversity. Yet, major knowledge gaps exist in how to calculate both development impacts and offset benefits for biodiversity, particularly for poorly known species and communities.
This large project will develop and test new guidance and protocols for the most challenging aspects of offsetting impacts on threatened species. In particular, we focus on:
In combination, this will improve offset benefits to nationally threatened species and ecological communities.
Why is the research needed?
Biodiversity offsets are routinely prescribed as conditions of approval for proposed development that impact on threatened species and ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999). To properly compensate for these impacts, offsets must deliver a measurable benefit for the affected species and ecological communities.
Offsets are commonly delivered via the legal protection of land, which aim to provide a measurable benefit in the area and quality of habitat protected. However, habitat protection may not be feasible, cost effective or even the most beneficial action for some threatened species and communities. For example, Northern Quolls are primarily threatened by invasive species, including cane toads and feral cats, rather than habitat loss. It is often not clear how to measure the benefit of activities such as predator control, fire management or weed control, and so working out to use these activities as offsets remains difficult.
Another challenge of biodiversity offsetting is that development impacts and offset benefits are calculated on a project-by-project basis. This poses the risk that the combined impacts of many small developments which may collectively imperil the viability of a threatened species are not fully captured and adequately compensated. A more coordinated approach to biodiversity offsetting presents opportunities for improved outcomes through jointly targeted actions.
How will the research help?
Decision makers rely on rapid and easy access to high-quality information on the costs and benefits of management activities when prescribing offset conditions.
This project will draw upon formal expert elicitation and cost-effectiveness analyses to deliver guidance for new offset approaches and strategies for threatened species and ecological communities.
In particular the research will deliver:
What research activities are being undertaken?
The project team will:
Who is involved?
The research project is being undertaken by researchers from the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne and University of Western Australia and RMIT University, who are working collaboratively with colleagues in State and Commonwealth Government departments, non-government organisations and threatened species recovery teams.
Where is the research happening?
The research is drawing on several case studies which are distributed across Australia, including the Malleefowl, Far Eastern Curlew and Northern Quoll.
When is the research happening?
The project commenced in 2016 and will run until mid 2021.
Top image: Northern Quolls may benefit more from introduced predator control rather than habitat protection. Image: Nicolas Rakotopare