A critical evaluation of the quality of biodiversity inputs to environmental impact assessments in areas with high biodiversity value : experience from the Cape Floristic Region
Hallatt, Trevor Winston
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Biodiversity considerations form an essential component of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), especially in areas with both a high biodiversity value and development pressure such as the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) in South Africa. Limited research has been conducted within the South African context on the quality of biodiversity inputs to EIA. The aim of this research was to evaluate the quality of biodiversity input to EIA in the CFR. To address this aim, a customised review package was generated to evaluate the quality of 26 Biodiversity Impact Assessment (BIA) reports in the CFR. The results were then compared with international trends of biodiversity input to EIA in order to show how prevalent such trends are within an area with high biodiversity value. This comparison showed that the quality of biodiversity input to EIA in the CFR generally concur with inadequacies identified in international EIA literature. Typically, significant weaknesses identified during the review were the lack of public participation and an insufficient evaluation of alternatives. Specialists also failed to develop adequate monitoring programmes. Furthermore, a very pertinent limitation was that, in general, assessments are conducted during inappropriate seasons and over insufficient time periods. However, some variations to the international trends are also present within the Region. For example, a particular strength was that a precautionary approach was adopted by most of the specialists to avoid negative impacts on biodiversity. In addition, specialists did not merely focus on lower levels (species and habitats) of biodiversity, but incorporated ecological processes in assessment techniques. The inadequacies identified in this dissertation pose particular challenges for biodiversity management and conservation practices. The development and implementation of mechanisms such as Best Practice Guidelines and improved biodiversity related legislation is proposed to improve biodiversity input to EIA.