As human development affects biodiversity, conservation scientists are trying to figure out ways to mitigate these negative impacts and, if necessary, compensate for biodiversity loss with comparable gains elsewhere. My work combines ecological theory and GIS to better understand how ecological dynamics affect the feasibility of successful mitigation.
Along with Susie Brownlie of deVilliers Brownlie Associates, I developed a time-delayed differential model to understand how mitigation delays lead to prolonged biodiversity loss.
In simple language, because mitigation is applied on a project-by-project basis, it only compensates for direct impacts. Indirect impacts, like reduced ecological resilience, remain unmitigations.
When there are long delays between the impact and the mitgation, reduced ecological resilience can cause biodiversity losses that last for decades after project-level mitgation is completed successfully.
Biodiversity offsets have been considered as a possible mechanism to fund protected area expansion in developing countries. With Susie Brownlie of deVilliers Brownlie Associates and Jeff Manuel of SANBI, I simulated whether South Africa can meet the Aichi protected area target using biodiversity offsets.
We showed that the best economic and conservation outcomes occured by combining public investment in protected areas with mitigation from private sector development.
No net loss assumes that the losses of biodiversity at one locality can be compensated for by equivalent gains somewhere else. But biodiversity is not always commensurable. My work, in collaboration with Sam Sinclair of Biodiversify, demonstrated how the geographic configuration and temporal feedbacks of biodiversity can jeopardise no net loss outcomes, even when mitigation is implemented perfectly.