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Environmental Impact Assessment Review 38 (2013) 16–25

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Environmental Impact Assessment Review
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/eiar

Determination of significance in Ecological Impact Assessment: Past change, current practice and future improvements
Sam Briggs, Malcolm D. Hudson ⁎
Centre for Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, Hampshire, SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom

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Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) is an important tool for conservation and achieving sustainable development. ‘Significant’ impacts are those which disturb or alter the environment to a measurable degree. Significance is a crucial part of EcIA, our understanding of the concept in practice is vital if it is to be effective as a tool. This study employed three methods to assess how the determination of significance has changed through time, what current practice is, and what would lead to future improvements. Three data streams were collected: interviews with expert stakeholders, a review of 30 Environmental Statements and a broad-scale survey of the United Kingdom Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) members. The approach taken in the determination of significance has become more standardised and subjectivity has become constrained through a transparent framework. This has largely been driven by a set of guidelines produced by IEEM in 2006. The significance of impacts is now more clearly justified and the accuracy with which it is determined has improved. However, there are limitations to accuracy and effectiveness of the determination of significance. These are the quality of baseline survey data, our scientific understanding of ecological processes and the lack of monitoring and feedback of results. These in turn are restricted by the limited resources available in consultancies. The most...

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