Determination of significance in ecological impact assessment: past change, current practice and future improvements

Briggs, Sam and Hudson, Malcolm D. (2013) Determination of significance in ecological impact assessment: past change, current practice and future improvements Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 38, pp. 16-25. (doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2012.04.003).


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Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) is an important tool for conservation and achieving sustainable development. ‘Significant’ impacts are those which disturb or alter the environment to a measurable degree. Significance is a crucial part of EcIA, our understanding of the concept in practice is vital if it is to be effective as a tool. This study employed three methods to assess how the determination of significance has changed through time, what current practice is, and what would lead to future improvements. Three data streams were collected: interviews with expert stakeholders, a review of 30 Environmental Statements and a broad-scale survey of the United Kingdom Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) members.

The approach taken in the determination of significance has become more standardised and subjectivity has become constrained through a transparent framework. This has largely been driven by a set of guidelines produced by IEEM in 2006. The significance of impacts is now more clearly justified and the accuracy with which it is determined has improved. However, there are limitations to accuracy and effectiveness of the determination of significance. These are the quality of baseline survey data, our scientific understanding of ecological processes and the lack of monitoring and feedback of results. These in turn are restricted by the limited resources available in consultancies. The most notable recommendations for future practice are the implementation of monitoring and the publication of feedback, the creation of a central database for baseline survey data and the streamlining of guidance.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2012.04.003
ISSNs: 0195-9255 (print)
Keywords: ecological impact assessment (EcIA), environmental impact assessment (EIA), institute of ecology and environmental management (IEEM), environmental Statement, monitoring, significance
Organisations: Civil Maritime & Env. Eng & Sci Unit
ePrint ID: 345830
Date :
Date Event
January 2013Published
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2012 10:22
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 16:19
Further Information:Google Scholar

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