More about this guideline
Notwithstanding the fact that, for on-going projects affecting KBA trigger element(s), restoration of a project’s or operation’s impacts is certainly a desirable type of intervention and outcome, the KBA Partners have recognised that new projects should carefully assess the potential outcomes of impact restoration measures when estimating the potential residual impact of the project and operations.
According to the Society for Ecological Restoration, ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been damaged, degraded, or destroyed. In this context, it means trying to repair unavoidable or accidental damage done to a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) during operations. In addressing impacts in a KBA, it is critical that restoration efforts specifically target KBA trigger elements (e.g. species, ecosystems, biological processes, along with other important biodiversity features) and that the restoration measures are designed to restore the features to baseline levels or higher.
Restoring a natural ecosystem is an uncertain, complex, and costly process, and does not always succeed. To maximise the chances of success, restoration programmes must follow a number of steps (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The stages and elements of leading practice restoration planning and implementation. (Adapted from Anstee, et.al. 2016)
Ecosystems vary in the ease with which they can be restored and how much is known about restoration techniques. Limits to restoration may include the following:
The scale and type of project impacts (for example, mining versus agriculture versus forestry), together with local environmental factors coupled with policy or regulatory requirements, affect a project’s ability to achieve restoration success (as defined by the restoration targets and objectives). This is particularly pronounced where physical resources are limited (for example, the physical or nutritional quality of soil, rainfall availability and predictability), such as in many arid and semi-arid landscapes across the globe. Combined with the scale of the disturbance from the project’s impacts on the environment, such local environmental factors greatly influence the likelihood that restoration efforts will be successful (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. The relationship between the level of disturbance and the level of possible intervention, and the relationship between the degree of ecosystem change and the financial cost of restoration. (Adapted from Anstee et al. 2016)
There is still a lot to learn about restoration and how successful outcomes can be achieved as part of the mitigation hierarchy. Fortunately, restoration ecology is a growing and active scientific field, and there are considerable resources and expertise available to businesses working in KBAs. Companies need to consider the feasibility of restoring specific biodiversity features within a reasonable time frame before assuming that restoration is a good option.
A restoration plan in a KBA can usefully be guided by the objectives, desk-based research, and baseline information related to the trigger biodiversity element that has been affected by the business operations. The restoration process can also:
In general, preventive measures (such as avoidance and minimisation of impacts) are considered the most effective options, both in terms of conservation outcomes and financial considerations. On the contrary, restoration is much more challenging, as there are a number of situations where the restoration of impacts has proven extremely difficult or practically impossible, due to the specific ecological, biological, and socio-cultural conditions.
For this reason, the KBA Partners have recommended that the limits to offsets identified in the IUCN Policy on Biodiversity Offsets also apply to restoration efforts.
Case study: Habitat restoration in limestone quarries
References and Resources
Anstee, S., Bennun, L., Temple, H., and Dutson, G. (2016). Biodiversity Management: Leading practice sustainable development programme for the mining industry. Department of Industry, Canberra, Australia.