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Landscapes are complex and increasingly have to support many different land uses and objectives, from food production and livelihoods, to providing water, timber and energy, to maintaining sites important for natural and cultural heritage. It is important to identify and prioritise areas for conservation that are of greatest significance and offer greatest opportunities for linking biodiversity and socio-economic development.
Assessing the best and most sustainable land use options requires a sound, defensible understanding of the landscape in question. This includes the biodiversity and ecological processes it supports and the ways in which people depend on, utilise and impact the landscape and the ecosystem goods and services it provides (e.g. water flow regulation, fresh water supply, provisioning of food, cultural heritage and sacred sites, and recreational areas).
Understanding how these factors vary across space and time requires a landscape level assessment approach that brings together representatives of government, business and civil society and compiles information that can help us to map the multiple uses and values of different parts of the landscape.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with business influencers to support landscape level assessments of biodiversity, ecosystem services and land use in landscapes affected by extractive and agricultural sectors.
Our aim is to find ways for development and conservation to co-exist by improving our understanding of the range of values within a landscape, strengthening the voice of biodiversity and ecosystem services in decision-making processes and informing targeted conservation action in priority areas.
‘When decision makers are faced with a choice between short-term development initiatives versus longer-term sustainable livelihoods or conservation of priority biodiversity areas, we need to have persuasive arguments underpinned by verifiable data.’ Michelle Pfaffenthaler, Environmental Specialist, Namibia.
In order to evaluate different options for achieving biodiversity and socioeconomic goals, the landscape is assessed using spatial planning frameworks within a Geographical Information System (GIS). GIS allows us to effectively represent important biodiversity and ecosystem services in the landscape and efficiently assess the sustainability of different development plans.
Businesses can mitigate their impacts on biodiversity by committing to No Net Loss (NNL) or Net Positive Impact (NPI) targets in the sites in which they operate. These approaches guide businesses through the mitigation hierarchy, a set of prioritised steps to alleviate environmental harm as far as possible through avoidance, minimisation, restoration and offsetting of detrimental impacts to biodiversity.
NNL is achieved when biodiversity gains from the combination of avoidance, mitigation, rehabilitation and targeted conservation actions match biodiversity losses from the impacts of a specific development project, resulting in no overall reduction of biodiversity. NPI aims for biodiversity to ultimately benefit from a development project.
FFI is working with businesses to undertake landscape level assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services. With sound ecological evidence and a better understanding of the landscape context in which they are operating, businesses can identify areas of high importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services and take proactive and efficient measures to achieve No Net Loss or preferably a Net Positive Impact for biodiversity.
Explore a case study: Landscape level assessment of key biodiversity vulnerability and landuse in the Central Namib, Namibia (PDF).
It is fundamental to both recognise and protect a range of values within a landscape, including cultural and natural heritage, to ensure sustainable use and to maintain inherent potential for future land uses.