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Posted by: Rod Ellison on 08/07/2011

Development of a Biodiversity Management System

Ecosulis has recently been involved in developing tools to deliver targeted biodiversity gain via a biodiversity network approach funded by a levy on development. The biodiversity network approach identifies and values resources in tandem to identifying opportunities for enhancement, new gain and improved connectivity. Where resources are facultative, and could potentially be created elsewhere, alternatives uses for the sites can be considered subject to conditioned gains via mitigation elsewhere.

A biodiversity management systems approach effectively implement the concept of ‘Conservation Offsetting’; which in broad terms seeks compensation, usually financial, from a developer where ecological damage cannot be avoided as a result of a proposal.  Compensation is pooled to fund biodiversity enhancement/gain measures equal to or greater than that lost. This naturally requires some measurement of biodiversity baselines plus the identification and achievement of biodiversity targets, and biodiversity monitoring. 

Ecosulis director and scientific advisor, Dr Alan Feest, has developed a Biodiversity Quality Assessment (BQA) programme as a statistically robust tool for the measurement of biodiversity.  BQA provides numerical baselines for species/species groups (Feest et al. 2006 and 2010) allowing changes to be measured, targets to be set and management to be monitored and reviewed.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s ‘A Living Wales’ proposes that biodiversity network planning should be based on a strong evidence base so decisions fully reflect risks, opportunities and limits.  This document correctly states that the biodiversity network (due to its multi-functionality) contributes to various policy objectives such as surface water management, public access and exercise, non-motorised transport etc.  It states that the network envisaged as Green Infrastructure due to its multi-functionality can be assigned an economic value. 

Through our involvement in developing a Green Infrastructure toolkit we have undertaken a literature review of emerging practice in both the UK and USA.  It is our opinion that the quantitative approaches often become very unworkable and open to challenge due to a lack of validated evidence and robust sampling to build a dataset. It is our also experience that assigning a monetary value to natural services is actually a highly subjective process although with the publication of the National Ecosystem Assessment the process may become slightly easier.  In terms of assigning a monetary value to the various ecosystem services that Green Infrastructure or a biodiversity network provides, it is important at the onset to consider:

  1. The valuation process – what level of complexity is acceptable in assigning monetary values to goods without a defined or economic value or externalities which by their very nature are external to the market;
  2. Does the valuation process in pricing these aspects (gains and externalities) become very complex and to some degree highly subjective due to the numerous assumptions to build such systems; and
  3. Are the inevitable assumptions implicitly open to third party challenge and ultimately hard to defend as strictly speaking the identified values do not have an economic value external to the system.


As such we suggest a more robust approach is to value ecosystem baseline (and progress over baseline) via multi-component analysis (MCA) (potentially using the BQA method).  Accordingly and building on our extensive experience of MCA analysis we have developed a staged approach to developing county wide strategic biodiversity planning tools.  Clearly to be successful these tools need to be tailored to suit the unique anthropogenic, policy and bio-physical characteristics of the area in question.

Section 206 of the Planning Act 2008 (The Act) confers the power to charge Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on certain bodies known as charging authorities.  CIL still different in ‘spirit’ to payments under 106 agreement and do not have to be directly related to development specific impacts. Charging authority, in setting CIL rates, are required to strike an appropriate balance between ‘the desirability of funding infrastructure from CIL’ and ‘the potential effects’ (taken as a whole) of the imposition of CIL on the economic viability of development.

The biodiversity network via the above methods can be characterized and defined in tradable (and/or non tradable) units to facilitate decisions on whether it is acceptable to lose a resource and if so, what offsetting measures are required to ensure a long term sustainable development.

The flow chart below was recently developed to show how a county wide biodiversity management system could be funded by, and fully integrated with, the development control process.



Categories: Biodiversity Research
Tags: biodiversity levy | community infrastructure levy | conservation offsetting
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