E=RC+ - Promote ‘avoidance’ (in the mitigation hierarchy) in an integrative way and measure its consequences on ‘minimization’ and ‘offset’ as part of infrastructures and development projects
In Europe, biodiversity decline is mainly caused by the loss and fragmentation of natural and semi-natural habitats. The strengthening of legislation and regulatory instruments and the development of the mitigation hierarchy have led to a slowdown in land degradation and artificialisation; however, most infrastructures and development projects are not yet appropriately dealing with their consequences on biodiversity and land artificialisation is still going on.
Recent trends in the conservation regulations have led from considering protected and rare species alone to accounting for common biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This shift of focus requires looking at the mitigation hierarchy differently. Indeed, while avoidance is straightforward when dealing with few populations of threatened species, it becomes more complex when dealing with ecosystem functioning and ecological continuities.
These sorts of issues jointly question ecological sciences and law to move forward better integrating ecosystem functioning and ecological continuities upstream of development projects. In addition, the conception and evolution of a development project and its impact on the territory and on biodiversity form a highly complex system. For this reason, it is only possible to address them with adapted methodologies based on the sharing of associated issues, the development of co-constructed proposals, and the analysis of the link with the proposed project and the ongoing development of the territory and ecological stakes in the vicinity (prospective approach).
The objective of the E=RC+ project is to propose a reproducible process stemming from a joint production approach within a forward-looking framework. This process could then be systematized during the preparation (upstream) and evaluation (measure of ecological footprint) of all infrastructure projects (new facility or requalification programmes). E=RC+ will develop welding procedure specifications in order to integrate the complexity of the issues raised by the ecological transparency of transport infrastructures.
The E=RC+ project will thus investigate how promoting ‘avoidance’ in the mitigation hierarchy modifies the outcomes related to minimization and offset in two case studies related to the improvement of the ecolocial transparency of transport infrastructures. These case studies will be dealt with by using a joint production approach within a forward-looking (e.g. scenarios of development for the territory under investigation) and integrative (e.g. integration of both biodiversity issues and technical constraints for planners) framework. To reach such an integration of biodiversity issues and technical constraints, scientists and planners from the GASBI group (Groupe d’échanges entre Aménageurs et Scientifiques pour la Biodiversité et les Infrastructures) will work together and collaborate in collective intelligence (the basis of joint production). A set of contrasted scenarios of land-use change integrating the issues related to the transport infrastructures under investigation and integrating or not avoidance principles will be developed during workshops. They will serve as a ground base to develop scenarios (modelling) of ecological continuities for the territory under the different land-use scenarios; the positive or negative evolution of ecological continuities will then help orientate the further improvement of the development project, until an equilibrium is obtained between planners’ and biodiversity stakes.