A critical evaluation of the quality of biodiversity inputs to environmental impact assessments in areas with high biodiversity : experience from the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot
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Environmental Impact Assessments make use of specialist input in terms of Biodiversity Impact Assessments in order to understand the status quo of an area in terms of its ecological composition as well as the impact of a certain development on the receiving environment. Biodiversity hotspots are areas which have been identified as hubs of biodiversity which are under great threat by human activities and have already lost over 70% of their original area. Biodiversity Impact Assessments which take place within biodiversity hotspots should be cognitive of the sensitivity of these areas and this study aims to find out if the BIAs are meeting Best Practice Guidelines for BIAs conducted as part of EIAs within South Africa. The quality of the Biodiversity Impact Assessments which are being conducted for proposed developments within the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspot was investigated by sampling 26 BIAs completed within this region. A similar study for the Cape Floristic Region has been conducted and therefore comparisons were drawn between the BIAs done in the CFR and the MPA. The MPA had a marginally higher report quality than the CFR; however, trends were similar and in many cases these trends can be seen internationally. Particular weaknesses are public consultation, the consideration of alternatives, monitoring of biodiversity features as well as constraints such as BIAs conducted in the incorrect season and over too short a timeframe. Positive points which were noticed were the assessment of the baseline environment and there seems to be a wider consideration of an ecosystem approach to EIAs conducted in South Africa compared with international BIAs. This may be due to the Best Practice Guidelines which are in place within South Africa
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