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The Limitations of Environmental Impact Reports

Large scale developments, such as the proposed Windfarms in Orkney, both onshore and offshore, require to produce environmental impact reports. That is an essential component of the planning process. But new work done by researchers at the University of East Anglia has pointed out the limitations in these assessments.

the head of a seal peeking out of the sea
Image credit Bell

What the current impact assessments don’t do is factor in the wider implications for wildlife and biodiversity on proposed large scale developments. They do not take into account how birds and other animals move around between different sites.

The research team have developed a  method of calculating the footprint of environmental impact.

 Dr José Alves, a researcher at the University of Aveiro and visiting academic at UEA’s School of Biological Sciences explained that it “could be applied to assess many other proposed developments in the UK, particularly those affecting waterbirds and coastal habitats where tracking data is available.”

Conservation beyond Boundaries: Using animal movement networks in Protected Area assessment’ is published in the journal Animal Conservation.

Any change, large or small scale, will affect the biodiversity of a given area – and will have knock on implications for a much wider range of wildlife – both geographically and with regards to species survival.

The University of East Anglia has also been involved in a collaboration with the RSPB and Natural England. They propose that biodiversity auditing should be integral to the ongoing development of regionally-targeted conservation plans, such as the Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) established by the UK Environment Act 2021.

Comprehensive biodiversity audits in England typically identify 10,000-14,000 species, and 1,000-1,500 priority species, per ecoregion, the majority of which are plants and invertebrates that have been historically neglected in conservation planning.

Harnessing biodiversity data to inform policy: rapid regional audits should underpin local nature recovery strategies‘, is published in Biological Conservation

a group of shags sitting on a rock with the waves crashing around them
Image credit Bell

The Scottish Government has published a draft Biodiversity Strategy which aims to “have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045.”

Given the serious concerns raised about how the proposed wind farm on Faray, Orkney, will affect wildlife there : OIC Faray Windfarm Approved by Scottish Government Despite Reporter’s Recommendation to Refuse , and other developments proposed for Orkney’s waters for offshore wind farms, is Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy worthy of its aims ?

The Strategy will also have huge implications for the inshore fishing sector in our islands and coastal communities. A fishing industry which not only uses sustainable practises but is also the lifeblood of these communities.

‘By 2045 Scotland’s shared stewardship of our marine environment supports ecosystem health, improved livelihoods, economic prosperity, social inclusion and wellbeing.’ 

Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy

The above applies except where successful lobbying by those with vested interests in the construction of off shore windfarms, or those with politically motivated aims, takes precedence over the wider implications for our islands, our traditional industries of farming and fishing, and the biodiversity they already support.

seabirds rising and falling in the air across stormy seas
image credit Bell

Fiona Grahame

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