Paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution

The paper Under the radar: mitigating enigmatic ecological impacts, by myself, Hugh Possingham, Suzanne Prober and Richard Hobbs has just been published online by the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.09.003): (this link will provide you with free access to the full article till 10th December 2014).

  • There are ecological impacts that are overlooked by standard impact evaluations.
  • These ‘enigmatic’ impacts can be cumulative, offsite, cryptic, or secondary.
  • Enigmatic impacts can act synergistically and are hard to detect and mitigate.
  • Potential solutions include strategic assessments and insurance schemes.

Identifying the deleterious ecological effects of developments, such as roads, mining, and urban expansion, is essential for informing development decisions and identifying appropriate mitigation actions. However, there are many types of ecological impacts that slip ‘under the radar’ of conventional impact evaluations and undermine the potential for successful impact mitigation (including offsets). These ‘enigmatic’ impacts include those that are small but act cumulatively; those outside of the area directly considered in the evaluation; those not detectable with the methods, paradigms, or spatiotemporal scales used to detect them; those facilitated, but not directly caused, by development; and synergistic impact interactions. Here, we propose a framework for conceptualising enigmatic impacts and discuss ways to address them.

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