Investigating the inclusion of ecosystem services in biodiversity offsetting

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9 May 2017

In response to growing international interest regarding the consideration of ecosystem services (ES) in the framework of biodiversity offsetting (BO) and the current lack of guidelines on the subject, we investigated the potential inclusion of ES in BO, highlighting the risks and opportunities. Our argument is premised on the assumption that a practical link already exists between the two and that most of the tools required to make this approach operational are available. But so far, ES are not explicitly taken into account when calculating and designing offsets (whether regulatory or voluntary). One way to integrate ES in BO is to use the Environmental Impact Assessments’ framework, here we propose a logical way to integrate ES at each step of the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy and provide details on the links with existing practice. In our proposal, the inclusion of ES is presented as a way to complement current approaches based on the assessment of habitats/species/ecological functions rather than to replace them. We argue that measures proposed to offset biodiversity losses, in addition to respecting ecological performance standards, should equally be chosen to minimize residual losses of ES. The latter require offsetting by different types of complementary measures. Implementing these recommendations as good practice should strengthen the weight of biodiversity, demonstrate consideration of social equity, and result in better acceptance of development projects and the measures proposed to offset them. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.