Posts Tagged ‘Biobanking’

Habitat banking on trial in France

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Yesterday, the French environment ministry officially expanded the on-going “experiment” with habitat banking which started three years ago in the Crau area, between Arles and Marseilles in Provence (southern France). There, a subsidiary of the French Sovereign Fund (a for profit public organization) called CDC Biodiversité transformed an industrial orchard into habitat for steppe-land birds such as the Little Bustard or the Lesser Kestrel.

The Ministry called a tender for three more such experiments, in order to further test the potential of habitat banks to cater for the offset needs of future infrastructure development plans (e.g. high speed train lines and the like). This requirement has been in place in France since 1976 but it has been rarely enforced (and if so, ill-applied). Only recently, under pressure from the EU for the transposition of the 1992 habitats directive, have developers and public authorities started to take it seriously.

Three areas and issues are favoured by the Ministry for setting up such habitat banks:

  • Alsace (Strasbourg), with a specific focus on the European Hamster,
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Lille), with a focus on connecting calcareous grasslands
  • Poitou-Charentes (Poitiers), with a focus on birds that use extensive cereal crop-land, and in particular the little bustard (again!)
  • The call to tender is on-line on the Ministry’s website.

    To be continued…

    Has Australian biobanking lost all credibility?

    Friday, February 18th, 2011

    Biobanking was launched in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) in 2009* in order to streamline the requirement for developers to avoid, reduce and offset their impacts on biodiversity.

    Biobanking is inspired by similar policy instruments in the USA and elsewhere whereby developers can purchase “credits” sold by “banks” who have created “biodiversity gains” in advance of future impacts. As such, banking schemes solve some of the difficulties of offsetting impacts : taking into account delays between impact losses and offset gains and the uncertainties of actually obtaining these gains.

    On the downside, conservationists often argue that such “banks” give the false impression that all impacts can be offset, thereby giving an incentive to downplay or ignore the requirement to first avoid and reduce impacts.

    A major development operation in the Hunter valley of NSW resorted to biobanking to offset its impacts but it was revealed that errors where made in sizing the required offset actions. This is a serious blow to the credibility of biobanking as an instrument for mitigating development impacts on biodiversity. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald tells us that:

    The 644.4 hectares of clearing requires 37,010 credits, while the 887.0 hectares of biobank site generates 9607 credits. This results in a shortfall of 27,403 credits. The results show that between 2614.5 to 4107 hectares of additional offset is required to satisfy the offset required by the biobanking assessment.

    It will be interesting to see how this particular mishap will play out on the development of biobanking in NSW but also in its spread to other Australian states.

    * The scheme was set up through the Threatened Species Conservation Amendment (Biodiversity Banking) Act of 2006.