The conservation evidence gap in ecological mitigation
What is ecological mitigation?
In the UK, the legal protection of species means that, if an infrastructure development is set to impact local species populations, developers must minimise this impact and compensate for any disturbance or loss of habitat. Hence, ecological mitigation measures, usually recommended by consultants during ecological impact assessment, have become a keystone policy tool intended to resolve the conflict between development and species conservation. Given the UK governments recent commitments to building 300,000 new homes per year over the next ten years, these measures are vitally important. However, despite their importance and widespread application, practitioners (Hill & Arnold, 2012) have previously indicated there may be limited evidence for the effectiveness of ecological mitigation.
so writes Bronwen Hunter, a PhD student at the University of Sussex who recently completed her MSc at Imperial College, London, where she conducted research on the evidence for ecological mitigation measures. Her current work focuses on the application of text-analysis tools to global analyses of wildlife exploitation see the blog here conservation evidence
The recently published paper (Hunter et al. 2021), we aimed to investigate this evidence gap by identifying the protected species mitigation measures used in developments, exploring the guidance that informed them and, using the Conservation Evidence database, evaluating the scientific evidence for their effectiveness. In reviewing the ecological reports associated with a sample of 50 housing developments, we found 446 measures recommended in total, comprising 65 different mitigation measures relating to eight taxa – over half of these measures have not been empirically evaluated and only 13 are assessed as beneficial or likely beneficial.