Monday, 13 February 2012

Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment

Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment

The Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment (ESR for IA) provides practical instructions to environmental and social practitioners on how to incorporate ecosystem services throughout environmental and social impact assessment.
WRI working papers contain preliminary research, analysis, findings, and recommendations. They are circulated to stimulate timely discussion and critical feedback and to influence ongoing debate on emerging issues. Most working papers are eventually published in another form and their content may be revised.



Lending and government institutions, such as the International Finance Corporation and the US Council on Environmental Quality, now require the explicit consideration of ecosystem services in impact assessment.
However, according to a survey carried out by WRI, the guidance documents currently available for addressing ecosystem services in Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) are seen by practitioners as insufficiently detailed to move ESIA practices forward.
To fill this gap in practical guidance, the Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment (ESR for IA) provides: (1) A conceptual framework of how the project, ecosystem services and human well-being are linked and (2)step-by-step instructions (PDF, 1 page, 172 Kb) to systematically incorporate ecosystem services


Get Involved

We invite you to send us feedback and suggested improvements to the methodology.
  • Complete our survey. Practitioners are invited to share their feedback on the ESR for IA through thisshort online survey. The authors would like your opinion on the overall ESR for IA framework and your suggestions for improving the guidance.
  • Join our LinkedIn discussion. The authors are leading a guided discussion on the ESR for IA with theBusiness & Ecosystem Services Professionals group, which links managers, consultants, and thought leaders around pressing issues at the nexus of business and ecosystems. The forum allows members to share recent news and best practices, discuss important issues, and connect with peers.
  • Road-test the ESR for IA. From January to September 2012, the authors will work with selected project developers and impact assessment practitioners to road-test the ESR for IA on actual ESIA processes. This opportunity is ideal for environmental and social practitioners who work for companies that wish to identify more effective ways to mitigate negative impacts on ecosystem services, meet the new IFC Performance Standards, or establish themselves as leaders in addressing ecosystem services in environmental and social impact assessment. If you would like your project to be considered for road-testing, contact Florence Landsberg with a short description of the project and the planned ESIA timeline.
  • Contact us. You are also invited to share your general feedback on the ESR for IA directly with the authors.


The ESR for IA will be presented in two successive working papers: Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment: Introduction and Guide to Scoping (available above) and Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment: a Guide to Impact Analysis and Mitigation (to be published early 2012) and will be road-tested between January and September 2012 before being finalized by the end of 2012.

Conceptual Framework

The ESR for IA’s conceptual framework builds on the elements and causal relations of the original Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Framework (Figure 1). By explicitly recognizing the causal interactions between the project, human well-being and the indirect and direct drivers of ecosystem change, the ESR for IA framework supports an integrated assessment of elements commonly assessed separately in an ESIA.
Figure 1: Conceptual framework for assessing project impact and dependence on ecosystem services (Click to Enlarge)

Why Use the Ecosystems Services Review for Impact Assessments?

The ESR for IA helps social and environmental impact assessment practitioners deliver the following:
  • Systematic integration of environmental and socio-economic issues.
  • Assessment of project dependence on ecosystem services.
  • Consideration of multi-scale impacts and dependence.
  • Identification of indirect and cumulative impacts.
  • Identification, communication, and negotiation with stakeholders.
  • Comply with the new International Finance Corporation (IFC) performance standards.

Ecosystem Services Requirements in new IFC Performance Standards

Starting January 2012, IFC investments will be screened systematically for ecosystem service risks and impacts, which are mandated in multiple performance standards. These ecosystem service changes to the IFC standards are comprehensive and affect screening, mitigation, and compensation rules for future investments. They also include increased resources to strengthen IFC’s internal management capacity to assess ecosystem service risks and impacts. These additions to the performance standards complement existing requirements for safeguarding biodiversity and supporting sustainable natural resources management to reflect the importance of the environment for people’s health, culture and fundamental human rights.
The new standards include the following specific ecosystem services requirements:
  • Performance Standard 1-Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts – Identify all reasonably expected risks and impacts related to ecosystem services and use a broader definition of a project’s area of influence, which now includes indirect project impact on ecosystem services upon which Affected Communities’ livelihoods are dependent.
  • Performance Standard 4-Community Health, Safety, and Security – Assess and manage health, safety, and security risks to communities resulting from direct project impact on provisioning and regulating ecosystem services such as the loss of buffer areas (e.g., wetlands, mangroves, or upland forests.
  • Performance Standards 5-Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement – Assess impacts on and compensate for loss of provisioning ecosystem services resulting from land acquisition and involuntary resettlement.
  • Performance Standard 6-Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources – Carry out a systematic review (including participation of Affected Communities) of all ecosystem services a project will impact or is dependent upon to identify priority ecosystem services, and avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on priority ecosystem services for which a client has direct management control or significant influence.
  • Performance Standard 7-Indigenous Peoples – Assess provisioning and cultural ecosystem services when examining projects affecting Indigenous Peoples.
  • Performance Standard 8-Cultural Heritage – Maintain or restore any ecosystem processes and ecosystem services when replicable cultural heritage is removed.

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