Ecology and environmental impact assessment.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may provide a mechanism for implementing sustainable development and ensuring wise use of natural resources. By providing analytical procedures for studying relationships between organisms and their environment, ecological science has an obvious role in EIA, but this has been underexploited under the existing legislation. Ecological input to environmental statements (ESs) for proposed developments has been criticized for its lack of scientific rigour and its failure to predict and evaluate ecological impacts. This article explores some barriers to the adoption of 'best practice' which derive from ambiguities in the wording of the legislation, key omissions in legislative requirements and scientific limitations. Scope for removing some of these barriers is considered. The need for a more strategic approach to ecological impact assessment, the introduction of standard protocols for survey and evaluation and of formal requirements for monitoring of ecological impacts is identified. Improved availability of data on the distributions of species and habitats is also important.