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Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert.

Kreitler J, Schloss CA, Soong O, Hannah L, Davis FW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals.Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general.Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, ID, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Balancing society's competing needs of development and conservation requires careful consideration of tradeoffs. Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals. The direct footprint and disturbance of renewable energy, however, can displace species' habitat and negatively impact populations and natural communities if sited without ecological consideration. Offsets have emerged as a potentially useful tool to mitigate residual impacts after trying to avoid, minimize, or restore affected sites. Yet the problem of efficiently designing a set of offset sites becomes increasingly complex where many species or many sites are involved. Spatial conservation prioritization tools are designed to handle this problem, but have seen little application to offset siting and analysis. To address this need we designed an offset siting support tool for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) of California, and present a case study of hypothetical impacts from solar development in the Western Mojave subsection. We compare two offset scenarios designed to mitigate a hypothetical 15,331 ha derived from proposed utility-scale solar energy development (USSED) projects. The first scenario prioritizes offsets based precisely on impacted features, while the second scenario offsets impacts to maximize biodiversity conservation gains in the region. The two methods only agree on 28% of their prioritized sites and differ in meeting species-specific offset goals. Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general. Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered. Our offset siting support tool was designed specifically for the DRECP area, but with minor code modification could work well in other offset analyses, and could provide continuing support for a potentially innovative mitigation solution to environmental impacts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Proposed solar development sites.Western Mojave ecological subsection with species richness and proposed utility scale solar development locations. Species richness is based on SDMs described in Davis et al. [15].
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pone.0140226.g003: Proposed solar development sites.Western Mojave ecological subsection with species richness and proposed utility scale solar development locations. Species richness is based on SDMs described in Davis et al. [15].

Mentions: The California Energy Commission maintains information detailing the location and size of existing and proposed utility scale (>1MW) solar facilities (http://www.energy.ca.gov/33by2020/). We queried this database to determine the location and size of potential facilities for our offset analysis and demonstration. 71 USSED projects are proposed within the Western Mojave ecological subsection, with an estimated total capacity of just less than 3500 MW of power and covering 15,331 ha (Table 1, Fig 3). Proposed projects are still in the planning and permitting phases, and actual project boundaries were not available at the time of this study. To approximate their footprint we created circular impact sites with area equal to the reported area, centered on the reported coordinates. This approximation likely captures the scale of impacts from the proposed projects, but will not represent the final impacts with the accuracy required for mitigation. Furthermore, our footprint approximation will not fully represent the actual cumulative impacts of all aspects of USSED activities [1, 2, 32].


Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert.

Kreitler J, Schloss CA, Soong O, Hannah L, Davis FW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Proposed solar development sites.Western Mojave ecological subsection with species richness and proposed utility scale solar development locations. Species richness is based on SDMs described in Davis et al. [15].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4631376&req=5

pone.0140226.g003: Proposed solar development sites.Western Mojave ecological subsection with species richness and proposed utility scale solar development locations. Species richness is based on SDMs described in Davis et al. [15].
Mentions: The California Energy Commission maintains information detailing the location and size of existing and proposed utility scale (>1MW) solar facilities (http://www.energy.ca.gov/33by2020/). We queried this database to determine the location and size of potential facilities for our offset analysis and demonstration. 71 USSED projects are proposed within the Western Mojave ecological subsection, with an estimated total capacity of just less than 3500 MW of power and covering 15,331 ha (Table 1, Fig 3). Proposed projects are still in the planning and permitting phases, and actual project boundaries were not available at the time of this study. To approximate their footprint we created circular impact sites with area equal to the reported area, centered on the reported coordinates. This approximation likely captures the scale of impacts from the proposed projects, but will not represent the final impacts with the accuracy required for mitigation. Furthermore, our footprint approximation will not fully represent the actual cumulative impacts of all aspects of USSED activities [1, 2, 32].

Bottom Line: Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals.Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general.Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, ID, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Balancing society's competing needs of development and conservation requires careful consideration of tradeoffs. Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals. The direct footprint and disturbance of renewable energy, however, can displace species' habitat and negatively impact populations and natural communities if sited without ecological consideration. Offsets have emerged as a potentially useful tool to mitigate residual impacts after trying to avoid, minimize, or restore affected sites. Yet the problem of efficiently designing a set of offset sites becomes increasingly complex where many species or many sites are involved. Spatial conservation prioritization tools are designed to handle this problem, but have seen little application to offset siting and analysis. To address this need we designed an offset siting support tool for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) of California, and present a case study of hypothetical impacts from solar development in the Western Mojave subsection. We compare two offset scenarios designed to mitigate a hypothetical 15,331 ha derived from proposed utility-scale solar energy development (USSED) projects. The first scenario prioritizes offsets based precisely on impacted features, while the second scenario offsets impacts to maximize biodiversity conservation gains in the region. The two methods only agree on 28% of their prioritized sites and differ in meeting species-specific offset goals. Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general. Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered. Our offset siting support tool was designed specifically for the DRECP area, but with minor code modification could work well in other offset analyses, and could provide continuing support for a potentially innovative mitigation solution to environmental impacts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus