Improving links between environmental accounting and scenario-based cumulative impact assessment for better-informed biodiversity decisions.
Increasing attention is being given to understanding how intensifying human activities combine over space and time to influence persistence of biodiversity. Two types of biodiversity assessment in particular are attracting growing interest: one focused on understanding past-to-present change (environmental accounting) and another focused on understanding likely present-to-future changes under proposed scenarios of future actions (cumulative impact assessment of scenarios). Here we highlight the potential benefits of improving the links between environmental accounting and scenario-based cumulative impact assessment for biodiversity, using a case study for subterranean fauna in the Pilbara region of Australia. Using a flexible and comprehensive model-based analytical approach, we assessed expected change in biodiversity persistence given past development, and likely change to 2100 under a proposed development scenario for the region. Our assessment shows both the times (2005-2015) and places (Fortescue sub-region) where development activities are likely to have most strongly influenced long-term biodiversity persistence for subterranean fauna in the Pilbara region. Although mining development has often occurred in areas that have a high value for subterranean fauna diversity, our linked environmental accounting and cumulative impact assessment suggest relatively modest impacts on long-term persistence for this component of biodiversity. Synthesis and applications. Our study provides an effective demonstration of the capacity and potential benefits of better linking environmental accounting with scenario-based cumulative impact assessment. Improving the links between these two perspectives on biodiversity assessment will create benefits for both, providing a consistent basis for cumulative impact assessments and enhancing the usefulness of environmental accounting.