Locking in loss: baselines of decline in Australian biodiversity offset policies

Maron, Martine, Bull, Joseph W., Evans, Megan C. and Gordon, Ascelin (2015) Locking in loss: baselines of decline in Australian biodiversity offset policies. Biological Conservation, 192 504-512. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.05.017

Author Maron, Martine
Bull, Joseph W.
Evans, Megan C.
Gordon, Ascelin
Title Locking in loss: baselines of decline in Australian biodiversity offset policies
Journal name Biological Conservation   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0006-3207
Publication date 2015-06-25
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.05.017
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 192
Start page 504
End page 512
Total pages 9
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Biodiversity offset trades usually aim to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity. But the question remains: no net loss compared to what? Determining whether an offset can compensate for a given impact requires assumptions about the counterfactual scenario—that which would have happened without the offset—against which the gain at an offset site can be estimated. Where this counterfactual scenario, or ‘crediting baseline’, assumes a future trajectory of biodiversity decline, the intended net outcome of the offset trade is maintenance of that declining trajectory. If the rate of decline of the crediting baseline is implausibly steep, biodiversity offset trades can exacerbate biodiversity decline. We examined crediting baselines used in offset policies across Australia, and compared them with recent estimates of decline in woody vegetation extent. All jurisdictions permitted offset credit generated using averted loss—implying an assumption of background decline—but few were explicit about their crediting baseline. The credit calculation approaches implied assumed crediting baselines of up to 4.2% loss (of vegetation extent and/or condition) per annum; on average, the crediting baselines were >5 times steeper than recent rates of vegetation loss. For these crediting baselines to be plausible, declines in vegetation condition must be rapid, but this was not reflected in the approaches for which assumptions about decline in extent and condition could be separated. We conclude that crediting baselines in Australian offset schemes risk exacerbating biodiversity loss. The near-ubiquitous use of declining crediting baselines risks ‘locking in’ biodiversity decline across impact and offset sites, with implications for biodiversity conservation more broadly.
Keyword Biodiversity offsets
Conservation policy
Crediting baselines
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article in press corrected proof.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management Publications
Official 2016 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 10 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 13 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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