Conservation and mitigation banks allow proponents to buy credits to offset negative residual impacts of development projects with the goal of No net loss (NNL) in ecosystem function and habitat area. However, little is known about the extend to which bank transactions achieve NNL. We synthesized and reviewed 12756 transactions in the United States as to meeting area and ecological equivalence (n = 4331) between approved negative impact and offset. While most transactions provided an offset equal or greater in area than the impacted area, approximately one quarter of transactions, especially targeting wetlands, did not meet ecological equivalence between impact and offset. Missing ecological equivalence was often due to the significantly increasing use of preservation, enhancement, and rehabilitation over creating new ecosystems through establishment and re-establishment. Stream transactions seldom added new ecosystem area through creation but mainly used rehabilitation to add offset benefits, in many cases leading to net loss of area. Our results suggest that best practice guidance on habitat creation as well as incentivization of habitat creation must increase in the future to avoid net loss trough bank transactions and meet the ever-accelerating global changes in land-use and the increase pressure of climate change. Keywords: Offsetting; Conservation policy; Biodiversity market; Preservation.

Citation: Theis, S.  and M.S. Poesch. (2022) Assessing conservation and mitigation banking practices and associated gains and losses in the United States. Sustainability 14: 6652.

Also Read:

Ruppert, J.L.W.*, Hogg, J., and M.S. Poesch. (2018) Community assembly and the sustainability of habitat offsetting targets in the first compensation lake in the oil sands region in Alberta, Canada. Biological Conservation 219: 138-146.

*Lab members: Sebastian Theis and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

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