Site selection and delivering project studies
Screening and executing the ESIA
Lack of information for marine biodiversity
What is happening?
In many places there is a lack of information available for understanding marine biodiversity baseline conditions. A lack of data may lead to development actions being taken without fully knowing the potential hazards that projects may pose for marine biodiversity. Sometimes, when data do exist there can be improper bias about where development should occur due to misinterpretations that may arise when presence is assumed only for areas where data exist and incorrectly categorizing ‘no data’ areas as ‘low biodiversity value’ areas.
Collecting field data can be slow and require significant resources that may be lacking at early project planning stages. There may also be a lack of local capacity to conduct studies, and sometimes a robust understanding requires seasonal and multi-annual data collection that does not align with developers’ timelines. The extent of areas that need to be researched means that data coverage is limited and/or lead to a focus of research in smaller localised areas of known value unless there are well funded coordinated approaches in operation that allow for wide survey effort. This focus may not necessarily be due to biodiversity value but relate to where there are threats, proximity to researcher bases and easy accessibility to study areas; which could also introduces bias when spatially interpreting biodiversity values.
Often research approaches are complex so to deliver robust science. However, if the approaches are difficult to deliver on the ground then data will either not be collected and/or be spatially limited.
Why is it a problem?
These issues limit the potential to assess impacts properly and lead to ineffective developer decision-making, which hinder the protection of marine biodiversity.
Complex approaches to collecting data also may limit wide-scale engagement in protecting marine biodiversity, limit data collection and conservation potential across wider areas, reduce the ability for sound spatial planning and reduce precautionary based developer decision-making.
Delivering No Net Loss or Net Gain for coastal and marine biodiversity is also highly dependent on the understanding of baseline conditions, including bio-physical inter-connectedness, dynamic changes and the timeframes that determine presence, population structures etc. A lack of information therefore means these concepts are sometimes difficult to understand and measure.
How do we help to solve it?
The understanding of biodiversity value and setting the scene for pragmatic precautionary protection of biodiversity features does not always require detailed scientific information. Wide-scale data uncertainty requires more precautionary approaches for understanding baseline conditions that can be facilitated by rapid environmental assessments employing predictive analyses. RAP (Rapid Assessment of Priorities) initiatives have indeed become important in recent decades for a variety of conservation applications from rainforest protection (e.g., ’Hotspots’ and other priority ecosystem approaches) to Marine Managed Area (MMA) definition. We therefore seek to develop predictive tools and approaches that provide an indication of biodiversity value and allow rapid assessments to be made where information is currently lacking to support better development decision-making, especially at an early project stage. These simple tools also seek to support local researcher’s to collect information in a way that is achievable with the constraints that exist in many parts of the world where there are frequent conflicts of development with features of high biodiversity value. These tools can also help to build in-country networks and to engage communities, which bring great advantages with respect to collecting information across large areas quickly and to provide resources to support project studies.
Rapid Assessment Tool to Help Research Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches
Bluedot Associates has partnered with the Centre for Ecology & Conservation at the University of Exeter to draw upon best available current knowledge of sea turtles worldwide to develop a Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Indicator Tool that can rapidly assess and rank the value of beaches for their potential sea turtle nesting importance in areas where there is an absence of biological data. The tool is designed for use by developers, consultants and researchers to quickly determine the spatial extent of turtle nesting and the relative habitat value of different beaches where sea turtle nesting is possible, but poorly understood.
The simplicity of the tool was considered a core aim rather than a weakness, and it derives from a philosophy of forming raindrops to create waterfalls, which means creating small ideas that can cascade into something much more powerful in a way that is not always possible with complex approaches. We hope that this easy-to-use tool will promote better early stage decision-making by developers whose projects may impact turtle nesting areas. In addition, the tool can be valuable for pointing to beaches with high potential for conservation and academic research, and data from the use of the tool can feed into strategic assessments for marine spatial planning at broader scales. The tool was developed to avoid over-complicated approaches that may not add value to the aims of the user; as such it allows for data to be collected by non-scientists and local networks with little training needed, thereby creating opportunities to develop capacity and to engage communities in a scalable fashion.
The tool is built around an Excel spreadsheet supported by an explanatory document in pdf form, and is therefore easily shared and disseminated by email. It employs a scoring and rating system to assess Beach Suitability, which is the potential for supporting a viable nesting population based on habitat features; and Human Impacts and how these are affecting nesting beaches. The tool provides indicative rather than conclusive results on nesting potential, i.e. indications of poor suitability for certain beaches should not be used as evidence there is no nesting. As such, the tool is useful in lieu of, and supplementary to, seasonal surveys that record the signs of nesting activity. In most cases the indications generated by the tool should be followed-up by more rigorous surveys performed by specialists, since the tool does not collect biological or seasonal information, nor does it rely on long term data sets.
The tool has been announced in the Marine Turtle Newsletter (#153, 2017) http://www.seaturtle.org/mtn/PDF/MTN153.pdf and articles published in the Africa Sea Turtle Newsletter (#8, 2017) http://oceanecology.org/african-sea-turtle-newsletter/ and State of the Worlds Turtles (SWOT) Report, Vol. XIII http://www.seaturtlestatus.org/. An additional article on the tool is also pending for publication in the next edition of the Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter https://www.iotn.org/.
We are currently looking at how best to publish data that may be collected using the tool, but in the interim, we are happy for data to be submitted to us so that we can begin to collate information on nesting sea turtle beaches. In order to protect the integrity of information submitted by data providers, we have developed a set of Terms and Conditions, which can be accessed here. Please read these terms carefully and tell us your preferences when submitting data. Should you have any wish for clarification on these terms please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please complete the form to download the Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Indicator Tool. After completing the form the download should start automatically.
Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Indicator Tool.
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