Impact assessment: impacts of development on biodiversity

Estimating the potential impact of proposed development and associated offset activities on biodiversity to support sustainable development

The challenge

Assessing the likely implications of proposed development actions on biodiversity is crucial in supporting planning of development and mitigation measures that best promote persistence of biodiversity into the future. Traditional approaches to impact assessment are focussed primarily on time-consuming, costly and challenging site-based surveys. Added to this, site-based approaches cannot be used to consider the cumulative effects of all activities within a region on biodiversity.

Our Response

CSIRO’s global biodiversity modelling system (BILBI1) enables rapid, cost effective, comprehensive assessments of the potential consequences of proposed actions on biodiversity, for any global area. This model-based assessment capability harnesses best-available information on biodiversity from around the world using over 300 million species records for vertebrates, plants and invertebrates. Enabling a range of biodiversity assessment strategies for proposed development:

  • scoping alternative development options
  • assessing the impact of a proposed development
  • comparing alternative offset measures
  • identifying the cumulative impacts of all development and mitigation actions across an entire region

BILBI enables a set of linked analyses for different stages and scales of impact assessment

Case-study: Assessing cumulative impacts of mining development in the Pilbara region, Australia

CSIRO’s capability in undertaking biodiversity impact assessments is exemplified by recent projects with BHP Billiton Iron Ore. These assessments focussed on iron ore mining developments in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. CSIRO’s biodiversity modelling was applied to assess the region-wide cumulative impacts of a future scenario of region-wide mining development on biodiversity. These analyses enabled quantification of the likely impact on biodiversity of different proposed developments, and areas that could be avoided to minimise negative impacts.