Ecological surveys and deliverables for Environmental Impact Assessments and Land Use Planning

Ecological information is essential for any land use planning effort, considering impacts and mitigations of any proposed development and to prioritize for conservation planning in its broadest sense. It is of fundamental importance for responsible and advanced environmental management to integrate ecological expert knowledge.

Most important components to consider in ecological studies for decision making in developments are:

  • - Possible presence of threatened species
  • - Possible presence of unique or threatened ecosystems
  • - Possible presence of wetlands
  • - Ecological conditions, state of biodiversity and connectivity.

Ignoring these ecological components in land use and development planning may easily lead to fatal flaws, and even prosecution, especially if the first three of the components listed above are ignored. These components are increasingly addressed legislation and overall in international to local decision making. In South Africa legislation has recently advanced in terms of environmental management and it is essential to comply with ecological components of environmental legislation.

However, apart from the components listed above, there are also applications of ecological studies that can aid in the mitigation and remediation of developed areas.

Ecological surveys and monitoring are therefore of significant importance in Environmental Management Systems including the following:

  • - Ecological flora and fauna habitat surveys that include investigations to the presence or absence of threatened species, threatened ecosystems and the state of biodiversity at a site.
  • - Assessment and delineation of wetlands
  • - Assessment of aquatic systems
  • - Assessments of carrying capacity, ecological conditions and conservation value of agricultural, game-farming and eco-tourism destinations
  • - Ecological monitoring of ecosystems pre- and post-development or application of environmental management actions
  • - Remediation plans and actions in terms of reclamation, rehabilitation and restoration of impacted areas
  • - Ecological Management Plans and Biodiversity Action Plans for the development sector, industries, companies in the agricultural sector and private conservation and eco-tourism enterprises
  • - Environmental management systems, Environmental Management Frameworks and Environmental Management Plans for municipalities, municipal districts and for Provincial Governments
  • - Determining bioregions and Bioregional Plans

Sensitivity mapping following biodiversity assessments are important throughout the environmental management process and as such is integrated in the ecological studies for Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Management.