Talk ES’team Ecosystem Services and the ‘Avoid Mitigate and offset’ approach

Numerous scientific researchers have focused on Ecosystem Services. However Ecosystem Services (ES) are not yet really taken into consideration in Project’s Environmental Assessment.

The recently released EU Biodiversity Strategy (2011) has laid down the framework for taking into account ES in managing the development of various European Territories. It was confirmed by the European Directive 2014/52 applicable to member states from 2017. Even if the Directive explains that the goal of those assessments is to contribute «halting biodiversity loss and the degradation of ES», it remains however fairly general on how to achieve this goal. In France, the upcoming law on biodiversity is also aiming toward the same direction.

In order to meet this new challenge, Egis environnement has developed a methodological approach called ES’team. This approach is operational, adaptable to project’s type (transportation infrastructure, industrial facility, etc.) and development phases (feasibility, preliminary, etc.). It is also coherent with the ‘Avoid, Mitigate and Offset (AMO) approach. ES’team is progressive in order to encourage project’s owners to integrate this approach in the environmental assessment, starting with a light scoping phase in order to qualitatively identify issues and aspects. In a second phase it applies a much more comprehensive and quantified screening approach.

ES’team proposes 3 levels of expertise:

- Pre-diagnostic (ES Scoping): established from a typology linking ES (presence, absence) and land cover, it quickly provides the main characteristics of a study area and allows identifying the most important ES. Pre-diagnostic is relevant for small scale assessments (1/100000) solely making use of data that were already collected for the environmental assessment. .

Pre-diagnostic was tested by EGIS on two projects: a road project during the Environmental Impact Assessment stage and a rail project during feasibility study. For example, the latter showed that pollination service could be a stake in the studied territory and also for the acceptance of the project by proposing measures specific to pollinators.

  • Comprehensive assessment (ES screening1) for the priority services: also based on a typology linking ES and land cover, but at a medium scale (1/25000). It requires more complex quantification models. This detailed diagnostic allows quantifying services in biophysics and monetary terms as well as losses related to the development of a Project (IENE, 2014).
  • Detailed field study (ES screening2), is relevant at a large scale, for study area of less than 1 km2. There is no robust and reproducible methodology allowing quantifying ES at this scale yet. This is why we have developed with the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research, France) a dedicated research program. This level of expertise will contribute to the development of reduction and even mitigation measures which take ES into account.

The two first levels of expertise are related to the first item of the AMO approach: to Avoid. The third level of expertise and the additional data produced will feed a future ES engineering, which will naturally be part of the last two items: Mitigate and Offset.

Ecosystem Services; Project’s Environmental Assessment; ‘Avoid, Mitigate and Offset’ approach