Biodiversity impact monitoring

6. Biodiversity impact monitoring

In implementing the monitoring plan, it is crucial that:

  • the biodiversity elements that have triggered the KBA identification are included in the monitoring plan (even if these elements have not been highlighted as areas of concern in the impact assessment);

  • the business monitoring system is aligned with and contributes to the KBA-wide monitoring efforts, if present, and, where KBAs are in or near indigenous peoples’ or local communities’ lands and territories, community-based monitoring of KBAs is supported;

  • the data collected during the monitoring activities are made available to the KBA Partners and included in the KBA database, consistent with the Red List Policy on sensitive data access; and the results of the monitoring are publicly disclosed, with considerations for confidential information.


How can the World Database of Key Biodiversity AreasTM help? The World Database of Key Biodiversity AreasTM can be used to identify those biodiversity elements, that should be regularly monitored and provides information on the population size or geographic extent of trigger elements prior to project impacts.


More about this guideline 

Three types of indicators are generally used to monitor biodiversity management performance (Bubb et al. 2014):

  • Threat indicators: These indicate the status of a threat to a biodiversity feature. They are often more closely related to the status of a biodiversity outcome indicator than an implementation indicator. They can be easier to monitor than an impact indicator, but may not be as easy to monitor as an implementation indicator. They help to answer the question: ‘Are our activities reducing the level of a threat to biodiversity?’
  • Impact indicators: Sometimes called ‘performance’ or ‘outcome’ indicators, these provide information on actual impacts of actions taken to address biodiversity or drivers of change. They help to answer the question: ‘How are our activities affecting biodiversity?’
  • Implementation indicators: Sometimes called ‘process’ or ‘output’ indicators, these are used to monitor the completion of actions that enable conservation to be achieved, whether a Biodiversity Action Plan has been developed and implemented or not (but not to track the actual impacts on biodiversity of the Biodiversity Action Plan). They help to answer the question: ‘Did we do what we said we would, when we said we would?’

To be fit for purpose, monitoring programmes should be:

  • easy to implement, even by non-specialists;
  • simple to communicate;
  • sensitive to change in the issue of concern;
  • relevant to the issue of concern;
  • reliable and scientifically robust; and
  • able to allow for separation of the operation’s impacts from that of others in the area.

Monitoring also needs to measure different kinds of impacts. Direct impacts are those that occur on site, generally appear fairly quickly, and are directly linked to the project activity or operations. Indirect impacts are impacts triggered in response to the project or operations but not directly caused by them. Indirect impacts may therefore originate farther away from the site, for example pollution upstream could impact KBAs far away in another part of the watershed, or reduction in prey species could impact on a predator. Cumulative impacts are perhaps the most difficult to measure and include all impacts from the project or operations, as well as all impacts generated by activities of others (other businesses and all other users of the resources).

Within the context of the management of a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), monitoring and evaluation of biodiversity and biodiversity management activities at the site level is critical for assessing progress towards the set biodiversity target. KBA trigger species (or ecosystems) need to be monitored as part of the biodiversity monitoring, and there should be an aim to maintain or increase the trigger species populations (or ecosystem extent/condition). It is also important for determining when targets and objectives are not being met and changes need to be made to the project’s management activities.

In particular, the process of biodiversity loss and gain accounting is also important for operations that are seeking to achieve a net gain on biodiversity through the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy. Commonly used metrics for loss and gain calculation include area quality measures (Parkes et al. 2003; Temple et al. 2010 & Temple et al. 2012) and units of global distribution (Temple et al. 2012).

References and Resources

Bubb, P., Brooks, S., and Chenery, A. (2014). Incorporating Indicators into NBSAPs- Guidance for Practitioners. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK, 20pp. 

Parkes, D., Newell, G., and Cheal, D. (2003). Assessing the quality of native vegetation: the ‘habitat hectares’ approach. Ecological Management and Restoration, 4: S29-S38.

Temple, H., Edmonds, B., Butcher, B., and Treweek, J. (2010). Biodiversity Offsets: Testing a Possible Method for Measuring Biodiversity Losses and Gains at Bardon Hill Quarry, UK. In In Practice, Edition 70, December 2010. Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

Temple, H.J., Anstee, S., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J.D., Rabenantoandro, J., Ramanamanjato, J.B., Randriatafika, F., and Vincelette, M. (2012). Forecasting the path towards a Net Positive Impact on biodiversity for Rio Tinto QMM. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

UNEP-WCMC (2017) Biodiversity Indicators for Extractive Companies: An assessment of needs, current practices and potential indicator models. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK, 39pp. (PDF report)