Full ecological impacts of resource development

Full ecological impacts of resource development

Hot Topics in Ecology

Full ecological impacts of resource development

Dr Keren G. Raiter, The University of Western Australia and CSIRO
Lines in the sand: Aerial view of a mine in the Great Western Woodlands, Western Australia, showing the pits, waste rock dumps, hub infrastructure, access tracks and extensive grid of exploration lines throughout the landscape. Photo by Keren Raiter.

Identifying and accounting for the wide-ranging ecological impacts associated with resource development is essential for mitigating ecosystem degradation and conserving biodiversity, ecological processes, and ecosystem services. Yet many ecological impacts are notoriously difficult to identify and measure, let alone mitigate. Such impacts tend to ‘slip under the radar’ of conventional impact assessments.

Ecological impacts overlooked in impact assessments include multiple small impacts that are significant in sum (cumulative impacts); impacts outside of the development footprint or the area assessed (offsite impacts); impacts not detectable with the methods or spatiotemporal scales used (cryptic impacts); impacts facilitated, but not directly caused, by the development (secondary impacts). Lastly, multiple impacts can have synergistic effects or one impact might facilitate another (e.g., logging can faciliate human-ignited forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon).

Linear infrastructure is a particularly pervasive form of development with many associated impacts that are commonly overlooked in impact assessments. Explosive expansion of linear infrastructure such as roads, tracks, railways, pipelines and exploration gridlines is a major factor driving habitat loss and fragmentation (i.e., cumulative impacts). Linear infrastructure is also associated with dust, noise, and light pollution, and changes to microclimates, water flows and predator activity (i.e., offsite impacts); barrier effects and internal fragmentation, and pathways for disease and pest species invasions (i.e., cryptic impacts); and logging, fauna mortality and overhunting (i.e., secondary impacts). What’s more, the size and extent of linear infrastructure networks are often not well known, poorly mapped and inadequately managed.

Potential solutions to address the sum total ecological impacts of development include strategic assessments and planning (e.g., no-development zones), improving professional practice (e.g., cumulative assessments, addressing historical impacts) and environmental insurance schemes.

Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Dr Keren G. Raiter
Email: Keren.Raiter@mail.huji.ac.il
Phone: +972 534 268 079

Date approved: 
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 00:27
ID Title Location Type
9883 Raiter, K. G., Hobbs, R. J., Possingham, H. P., Valentine, L. E., & Prober, S. M. (2018). Vehicle tracks are predator highways in intact landscapes. Biological Conservation, 228, 281-290. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.10.011
9451 Raiter, K.G., Prober, S.M., Possingham, H.P., Westcott, F., Hobbs, R.J., 2018. Linear infrastructure impacts on landscape hydrology. Journal of Environmental Management 206, 446-457. Great Western Woodlands, Western Australia A combination of field-based assessments, GIS techniques, and data analyses.
9450 Polak, T., Rhodes, J.R., Jones, D., Possingham, H.P., 2014. Optimal planning for mitigating the impacts of roads on wildlife. Journal of Applied Ecology 51, 726-734. Koala coast, south of Brisbane Population modelling
9449 Geneletti D., Biasiolli A. & Morrison-Saunders A., 2017, Land take and the effectiveness of project screening in Environmental Impact Assessment: Findings from an empirical study. Environ Impact Asses 67, 117-23. Trentino region, in northern Italy Empirical review of EIAs
9448 Bird J. P., et al. 2011, Integrating spatially explicit habitat projections into extinction risk assessments: a reassessment of Amazonian avifauna incorporating projected deforestation. Diversity and Distributions 18, 273-81. Amazon Modelling paper
9447 Greig L.A., & Duinker P. N., 2011, A proposal for further strengthening science in environmental impact assessment in Canada. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 29, 159-65. Canada Review paper
9446 Jaeger, J.A.G., 2015, Improving environmental impact assessment and road planning at the landscape scale. In: van der Ree R, Smith DJ, Grilo C (eds) Handbook of Road Ecology. Wiley, Chichester, UK, pp 32–42 Review
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9335 van der Ree R., Smith D. J. & Grilo C. (2015) Handbook of Road Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK. Global; many case studies including in Africa, Christmas Island, China, Khazakstan, etc. Many types explored in book.
9334 Runge C. A., Tulloch A. I. T., Gordon A. & Rhodes J. R. (2017) Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure. Conservation Biology Online Early View Upper Spencer Gulf and associated regions of South Australia Original research based on scenario modelling
9333 Alshuwaikhat H. M. (2005) Strategic environmental assessment can help solve environmental impact assessment failures in developing countries. Environ Impact Asses 25, 307-17. global, with a focus on developing countries. Mentions Asia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Pakistan, China, etc. Review
9332 Sanderson E. W., Jaiteh M., Levy M. A., Redford K. H., Wannebo A. V. & Woolmer G. (2002) The human footprint and the last of the wild. BioScience 52, 891-904. Global Synthesis of published spatial data.
9331 Benítez-López A., Alkemade R. & Verweij P. A. (2010) The impacts of roads and other infrastructure on mammal and bird populations: a meta-analysis. Biological Conservation 143, 1307-16. global - some geographical bias was found since most of the studies were from either North America (21) or Europe (23), while a few studies from Africa (3) and Oceania (2) were found. Meta-analysis.
9330 Duniway M. C. & Herrick J. E. (2011) Disentangling road network impacts: the need for a holistic approach. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 66, 31A-6A. Global Review
9329 Laurance W. F., Peletier-Jellema A., Geenen B., Koster H., Verweij P., Van Dijck P., Lovejoy T. E., Schleicher J. & Van Kuijk M. (2015) Reducing the global environmental impacts of rapid infrastructure expansion. Current Biology 25, R259–R62. Global Review
9328 Venter O. et al. (2016) Sixteen years of change in the global terrestrial human footprint and implications for biodiversity conservation. Nature Communications 7, 12558. Global original research using available data on infrastructure, land cover, and human access
9327 Raiter K. G., Prober S. M., Hobbs R. J. & Possingham H. P. (2017) Lines in the sand: quantifying the cumulative development footprint in the world’s largest remaining temperate woodland. Landscape Ecology 32, 1969-1986. Great Western Woodlands, Western Australia Natural experiment/spatial investigation and analysis
9326 Raiter K. G., Possingham H. P., Prober S. M. & Hobbs R. J. (2014) Under the radar: mitigating enigmatic ecological impacts. Trends Ecol Evol 29, 635-44. Global Review paper.