Biodiversity in environmental assessment : tools for impact prediction

Abstract: Urbanisation and infrastructure developments impact on the surrounding natural environment and threaten biodiversity. The fragmentation of natural habitats in particular is a major obstacle for the preservation of biodiversity in a long-term perspective. In the planning process, both the environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment processes play a central role in the identification and prediction of impacts on biodiversity. At the same time, the devel-opment of GIS technologies and GIS-based ecological models offer new perspectives in the elaboration of predictions. In order to analyse current practices and identify the need for im-provements in the environmental impact process, a review of environmental impact assessment reports was carried out. Further, a review of existing GIS methods and GIS-based ecological models is presented. The results of the review of environmental impact assessment reports show a lack of predictions in current biodiversity assessments. These asssessments often concentrate on impacts at the local scale, failing to consider large-scale and widespread impacts at the ecosys-tem and landscape levels. The review of GIS methods and GIS-based ecological models demon-strate the possibility to generate quantitative predictions for a specific area as well as for it’s sur-rounding environment. At the same time, the flexibility and reproducibility of such methods would allow predictions to be made for different alternatives or scenarios, therefore providing decision makers with relevant information of potential impacts on biodiversity. This would, in turn, result in an improved integration of biodiversity issues in physical planning and contribute to a sustainable development.