Evidence shortfalls in the recommendations and guidance underpinning ecological mitigation for infrastructure developments.

Published online
22 Oct 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Ecological Solutions and Evidence

Hunter, S. B. & Ermgassen, S. S. E. zu & Downey, H. & Griffiths, R. A. & Howe, C.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
UK & Europe


1. In the United Kingdom and European Union, legal protection of species from the impacts of infrastructure development depends upon a number of ecological mitigation and compensation (EMC) measures to moderate the conflict between development and conservation. However, the scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness has not yet been comprehensively assessed. 2. This study compiled themeasures used in practice, identified and explored the guidance that informed them and, using the Conservation Evidence database, evaluated the empirical evidence for their effectiveness. 3. In a sample of 50 U.K. housing applications, we identified the recommendation of 446 measures in total, comprising 65 different mitigationmeasures relating to eight taxa. Although most (56%) measures were justified by citing published guidance, exploration of the literature underpinning this guidance revealed that empirical evaluations of EMC measure effectiveness accounted for less than 10% of referenced texts. Citation network analysis also identified circular referencing across bat, amphibian and reptileEMCguidance. Comparisonwith Conservation Evidence synopses showed that over half of measures recommended in ecological reports had not been empirically evaluated, with only 13measures assessed as beneficial. 4. As such, most EMC measures recommended in practice are not evidence based. The limited reference to empirical evidence in published guidance, as well as the circular referencing, suggests potential 'evidence complacency', in which evidence is not sought to inform recommendations. In addition, limited evidence availability indicates a thematic gap between conservation research and mitigation practice. More broadly, absence of evidence on the effectiveness of EMCmeasures calls into question the ability of current practice to compensate for the impact of development on protected species, thus highlighting the need to strengthen requirements for impact avoidance. Given the recent political drive to invest in infrastructure.

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