What is the Conservation Hierarchy

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Founded on the Mitigation Hierarchy

The Conservation Hierarchy was proposed in a 2018 paper by Arlidge et al. It is founded on the Mitigation Hierarchy, and provides a transparent framework for:

  1. Structuring existing knowledge on the impacts of human actions on nature
  2. Guiding management decisions to limit negative impacts and promote positive impacts on nature, using a step-wise process that allows for exploration of different pathways to meet overall objectives
  3. Monitoring progress created by actions towards an overarching vision for nature.

With the overall goal of nurturing sustainable human footprints so that nature and people can thrive.

In applying this framework, first a target is set. Traditionally this has been No Net Loss of biodiversity, but momentum has been building towards net gain of biodiversity as a more ambitious and appropriate target. Next, a baseline is set, against which to measure progress towards this target. The mitigation hierarchy then takes a precautionary step-wise approach in carrying out actions to meet the target with four broad actions steps:

1.Avoid negative impacts on nature as far as possible during actions and activities. If negative impacts can’t be completely avoided, then…
2.Minimise negative impacts on nature while the damaging activities are taking place. Then…
3.Remediate negative impacts on nature within the footprint of the damaging activities. If any residual impacts remain after the implementation of the first three steps, then…
4.Offset these residual impacts through compensatory conservation actions for nature elsewhere.

These steps are sequenced in order of preference from a precautionary perspective, in that preventing losses of biodiversity is seen as a more reliable and desirable means of achieving biodiversity goals than compensating for damaged or degraded habitats. Avoidance and minimisation actions are primarily preventative, and therefore of lower risk to biodiversity, whereas remediation and offsetting actions are primarily compensatory, and therefore more risky in terms of securing biodiversity due to uncertainty in the outcomes of the actions. As such, it is good practice to apply offset multipliers according to the risk profile for future positive impacts on biodiversity from offsetting).

However, the Conservation Hierarchy goes beyond the mitigation hierarchy, in that it also integrates and advocates for Proactive Conservation Actions to be undertaken throughout – independently of and over and above the these four steps – to enhance and restore nature.

THE STEP-WISE APPROACH

1.) Avoid

negative impacts on nature as far as possible during actions and activities. If negative impacts can’t be completely avoided, then…

2.) Minimise

negative impacts on nature while the damaging activities are taking place, then…

3.) Remediate

negative impacts on nature within the footprint of the damaging activities. If any residual impacts remain after the implementation of the first three steps, then…

4.) Offset

these residual impacts through compensatory conservation actions for nature elsewhere.

Proactive Conservation Actions

can also be undertaken independently of and over and above the these four steps, to achieve net positive outcomes for nature.

However, the Conservation Hierarchy goes beyond the mitigation hierarchy because it is…

  • Aspirational
  • Integrated
  • Inclusive
  • Flexible

Read more here about how the Conservation Hierarchy goes beyond the mitigation hierarchy, and creates a united framework for action.