Methods for highlighting ecological monitoring needs in data-sparse regions a case study of impact assessment for multi-component infrastructure installations

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Abstract

The drive globally to develop more efficient, low-cost renewable energy generating devices to combat climate change, means there are often novel technologies being installed whose environmental effects are unquantified. Frequently, a lack of quantification of such device parameters is compounded by a lack of ecological data, which would facilitate Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). This absence of fundamental information may lead to unfocused, unstandardised, costly and time-consuming EIAs.

For such cases where both energy device and ecological data are missing, we propose a streamlined desk-based scoping process to direct survey and monitoring efforts. We combined a series of flexible methods, transferable to multiple locations and scenarios; a Activity-Pressure-Stressor framework and associated impact pathways, a Weight of Evidence (WoE) analysis and a Receptor Sensitivity Index (RSI). These were parameterised using data obtained from the literature, with a standardised, robust process and format. This process enabled many potential impact pathways, with unknown consequences, to be robustly consolidated and assessed for their likelihood given the location and conditions, yet these methods have not been previously explicitly combined.

Our combined assessment methods identified the most likely impact pathways, and particular taxa that were sensitive to the renewable energy development concerned, and although we found that the lack of consistent, standardised data meant that the scale and strength of species responses remained uncertain, we were able to produce clear monitoring goals to increase efficiency of EIAs. We recommend that this combination of methods is employed when faced with a ‘blank canvas’ scenario, to standardise the scoping procedure and focus standardised data collection and improve environmental impact assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107433
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Volume105
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Cumulative impacts
  • EIA
  • Renewable energy
  • Weight-of-evidence

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