How economic contexts shape calculations of "yield" in biodiversity offsetting

Carver, L and Sullivan, S (2017) 'How economic contexts shape calculations of "yield" in biodiversity offsetting.' Conservation Biology. ISSN 0888-8892 (Forthcoming)


This paper describes and analyses applied practices creating numerical equivalence between sites of development impact and proposed conservation offset sites in the new conservation technology of biodiversity offsetting. Application of biodiversity offsetting metrics in development impact and mitigation assessments is considered to standardize biodiversity conservation outcomes, sometimes termed ‘biodiversity yield’ by consultants conducting these calculations. The youth of biodiversity offsetting in application, however, means that little is known about how biodiversity valuations and offset contracts between development and offset sites are agreed in practice, or the long-term implications for conservation outcomes. We respond to the first of these gaps in particular by demonstrating how sites were made commensurable and biodiversity gains or yields were calculated and negotiated for a specific offset contract in a government-led pilot study into biodiversity offsets in England. Observations over 24 months were based on repeat site visits, 50 transcribed semi-structured interviews subjected to textual analysis using a qualitative data analysis computer software programme, and review of biodiversity offsetting calculation spreadsheets and planning documents. The technical calculations made and negotiated in different iterations of a specific Biodiversity Impact Assessment using the biodiversity offsetting metric developed by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs constitute a particular focus of the paper. We highlight three main findings. First, biodiversity offsetting metrics are being amended in creative ways as users adapt inputs to metric calculations to balance and negotiate conflicting requirements. Second, the practice of making different habitats equivalent to each other through the application of biodiversity offsetting metrics is giving rise to commensuration outcomes that may be questionable in terms of projected conservation outcomes. Third, the pressure of creating value for money in compensation strategies for conservation can diminish conservation ‘yields’ in the competitive search for less expensive mitigation options.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: biodiversity offsetting; biodiversity yield; commensuration; conservation policy; value; ethnography; English Biodiversity Offsetting Pilot
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QK Botany
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2017 11:44
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2017 13:41
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