Priority to avoidance

2. Priority to avoidance

All forms of avoidance are prioritised, including notproceeding with project development where it is likely that negative impacts on the biodiversity elements triggering the identification of the KBA will occur, or relocating the project to other sites, prioritising, where relevant, already degraded areas. As established by IUCN Members, certain activities should be avoided in KBAs, including environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure (WCC-2016-Rec-102)oil palm plantations (WCC-2016-Res-061), and activities that would lead to the loss of primary forest (WCC-2016-Res-045).


How can the World Database of Key Biodiversity AreasTM help? The identification of sensitive areas during screening processes and baseline surveys is of critical importance. The World Database of Key Biodiversity AreasTM can be used to show where existing or future project sites, operations, and supply chains are located in relation to KBAs. The World Database of Key Biodiversity AreasTM can also help indicate the relative importance of the site for the persistence of the trigger elements (for example, if the site is home to a high percentage of the global population of a species). Furthermore, measures and plans may be designed to minimise impacts on KBAs in or near a concession or across a supply chain by focusing on specific biodiversity elements for which that KBA was identified.


More about this guideline

Avoidance refers to measures taken to avoid creating impacts from the outset, such as careful spatial or temporal placement of a project to completely avoid impacting certain elements of biodiversity. Avoidance should always be the first and most significant priority of any organisation or company seeking to develop a project in a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and is most effective when considered before project design. As globally important sites, operating within KBAs will significantly increase exposure and reputational risk to a company.

The financial, conservation, and reputational benefits associated with avoidance, when compared to other elements of the mitigation hierarchy, include:

  • greater ecological effectiveness – avoidance is most likely to deliver a “no biodiversity loss” outcome for the project;
  • a higher certainty of success – avoidance addresses the actual or potential project impact;
  • lower costs – changes to project location or infrastructure design are often a cheaper option for a project than extensive restoration and biodiversity offsetting activities; and
  • strong stakeholder support – avoidance is immediate and tangible and is therefore seen as a positive option by most stakeholders; this can translate to an improved social license to operate for a project.

There are three major types of avoidance that can be considered when applying the mitigation hierarchy to projects within KBAs (Hardner 2015). These include:

  • Avoidance through site selection, by locating the project outside of the KBA.  While this is generally the preferred approach from a conservation standpoint, project resource and or economic constraints may make this difficult.
  • Avoidance through project design, by modifying the infrastructure elements of the project (e.g. burying power cables to avoid killing birds of prey, or building tunnels under roads to allow passage for migrating animals, etc.) and by avoiding critical habitat or sites for the KBA trigger elements within the KBA. KBAs may be designated for several species and each may use different areas of the KBA at different intensities. Avoiding these important areas within the KBA will minimise impacts on the KBA trigger species.
  • Avoidance through scheduling, by scheduling time-flexible project activities to occur when they will have the least impact on the behaviour or presence of important species (e.g. timing an oil and gas seismic survey to avoid marine mammal aggregations; shutdown on demand wind farms during bird or bat migration season).

There are several IUCN resolutions relevant to avoidance:

WCC-2016-Rec-102 - Protected areas and other areas important for biodiversity in relation to environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development.

Key extracts:

RECOGNISING that the concept of areas being 'no-go', or off-limits, to environmentally damaging industrial-scale activities, including industrial-scale mining, oil and gas, and agriculture, and environmentally damaging infrastructure, such as dams, roads, and pipelines, is integral to conservation policy for protected areas and other sites of known importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. 

7. CALLS ON the business community to respect all categories of protected areas as 'no go' areas for environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development, to withdraw from those activities in these areas, and not to conduct future activities in protected areas;

8. URGES companies, public sector bodies, financial institutions (including development banks), relevant certification bodies and relevant industry groups not to conduct, invest in, or fund environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development within, or that negatively impact, protected areas or any areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services that are identified by governments as essential to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and to make public commitments to this effect.

WCC-2016-Res-045 - Protection of primary forests, including intact forest landscapes

Key extracts:

3. ENCOURAGES States, the private sector and international financial institutions to ….  avoid loss and degradation of primary forests, including intact forest landscapes; 

WCC-2016-Res-061- Mitigating the impacts of oil palm expansion and operations on Biodiversity

Key extracts:

3. URGES Members, especially State and Government Agency Members, as well as the private sector, to … ensure that land-use planning for oil palm plantations is done to avoid areas of intact forest, Key Biodiversity Areas, High Carbon Stock forests, peatlands, World Heritage Sites, and territories and areas of indigenous peoples and local communities, in order to ensure maximum conservation of biodiversity, maintenance of ecological integrity, protection of livelihoods, and avoidance of conflict;

WCC-2012-093 - Prioritising community-based natural resource management for social and ecological resilience

Key extracts:

1. CALLS UPON the international community, aid and humanitarian agencies, all IUCN Members, and other organisations to recognise and promote the rights of communities to exercise self-determination in the formulation of policies and projects affecting their environment and security;

References and Resources

Hardner, J., Gullison, R.E., Anstee, S., and Meyer, M. (2015). Good practices for biodiversity inclusive impact assessment and management planning. Prepared for the Multilateral Financing Institutions Biodiversity Working Group.