Faunal and Biodiversity Impact Assessing

Case Study: Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services
5 May 2020

True measure of impacts is only possible when taking into account all elements of the affected environment.

Background

Biodiversity assessments are at their core in depth studies of a particular area with the key focus being on variation and variability of living organisms within that particular ecosystem or habitat. These studies are done in order to assess the impacts of developments as well as to better inform and guide management decisions. Interconnectedness is crucial when assessing impacts. What happens if you remove an animal species that feeds on certain berries thereby aiding the seeds germination? What happens if you plant trees next to a stream that blocks the sunlight and cools the warm water in which dragonflies breed? It is vital to understand the ecosystem in its entirety as seemingly small changes, even well intentioned ones, can have negative ripple effects if not properly understood. Biodiversity and faunal assessments provide this knowledge and aid in optimal informed decision making.

Designing a customised solution

NCC Environmental Services makes use of our vast experience and team of in-house specialists and associates to tailor each study to the specific habitat type. This results in utilising the best tools, traps, research material, or survey techniques to ensure accuracy and excellence at all times.

NCC Technicians surveying group of wildebeest.

Implementation

Biodiversity assessments involve three basic stages starting with a desktop analysis. This stage scrutinizes the available project literature as well as any relevant information available about the site such as the vegetation and habitat type(s) which dictate what species are likely to be found there.

With a pre-informed knowledge base sites are then visited, ground-truthed and methodical surveys undertaken. Careful observation and analysis focuses on species drivers, habitat suitability and trajectory as well as ecosystem functions and relationships, for instance mutualism, where two species interact and both enjoy benefit.

Having a concise understanding of the intricacies of a site allows for better analysis of any expected impacts on this environment as well as enabling informed decision making for management interventions. Compilation of the detailed report is the last step and includes aspects such as GIS mapwork, impact tables, species lists (Red List), any threats and/or recommendations as well as associated images. The report becomes a valuable tool when considering decisions that may cause harm to the environment as well as in better managing the area through thorough understanding.

Lessons learned

Biodiversity is the greatest indicator of ecosystem health. Certain areas have naturally higher biodiversity such as tropical locations compared to deserts but it is vital to understand what the level of this should be in order to gauge the health of the area being assessed. It is no good to have a handful of species thinking that is sufficient when perhaps a healthy site in that ecosystem should have double the number. Biodiversity assessments provide a gauge and measure as to the state of the site and through this in depth understanding are able to highlight areas that may be impacted upon by developments or where management intervention is needed.

Sampling surveys often produce surprising results.

Achieving real growth

NCC Environmental Services understands that knowledge is power and that to better protect the environment we need to understand it, how it functions, interacts and its subsequent susceptibilities to change. Change whether through management or development choices can affect diversity of habitat which is directly proportional to diversity of species. Diversity of species equates to higher environmental resistance and increased ecosystem service provision.

A saying in conservation is that ‘people only care for what they care about’. To ‘care about’ involves understanding which come through study and when applied properly can be used to make sustainable and ethical decisions that lead to real growth for people, planet and business.

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