Considering Ecosystem Services in Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is applied to development proposals that are likely to lead to significant environmental effects. The assessment ensures that potential effects on the environment are considered in decisionmaking, including natural resources such as water, air and soil; conservation of species and habitats; and community issues such as visual effects and impacts on the population. EIA also provides a mechanism by which the interaction of environmental effects can be predicted, allowing negative effects to be avoided or reduced through the implementation of mitigation measures.
EIA is the main tool acting at the interface between the environment, development design and communities.EIA helps to shape the design and siting of development such that the social value to communities and broader economic value to investors can both be met, without eroding natural capital and pushing the boundaries of environmental and social limits – a tool that can truly support moves towards sustainability.
Considering ecosystem services in EIA can fur ther enhance this role by helping increase understanding of secondary and cumulative effects on ecosystems and the services they provide to society and identifying issues that may otherwise have been missed.
In August 2011 IEMA produced a report on The State of EIA Practice in the UK. The report identifies six areas where action is needed to ensure IEMA’s Vision for EIA Practice is delivered. This briefing note is designed to enhance activity under a number of these areas. In par ticular by raising awareness of ecosystem services, and providing advice on how to consider them in EIA, it will contribute towards effor ts to engage communities in the process of shaping new development to find the best environmental outcomes.