A new strategic framework to structure Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA)
Keywords:Bayesian network, climate change, cumulative effects, database, ecosystem approach, marine renewable energies, online application
In order to alleviate climate change consequences, UK governments are pioneering offshore energy developments with increasing commitment. The North Sea is a dynamic ecosystem with strong bottom-up/top-down natural and anthropogenic drivers facing rapid climate change impacts. Therefore, to ensure the compatibility of such large-scale developments with nature conservation obligations, cumulative effects need to be evaluated through cumulative impact assessments (CIA). However, by excluding climate change impacts, CIA lacks spatio-temporal appropriate baselines linking ecosystem components (e.g. physical indicators) to population dynamics which leads to uncertain predictions at populations levels. This study presents an overview of a framework for CIA using a holistic and pragmatic ecosystem approach based on spatio-temporal Bayesian network in order to identify pressure pathways, keystone components, ecosystem connectivity and resilience as well as population-level changes. We will also present potential fine-scale environmental monitoring solutions and data sources generated at MRED (Marine Renewable Energy Developments) site levels. Finally, we will discuss the usefulness of the two components that make up this framework: a database and an application of standardised shared tools that will pave the way to more transparent and multi-disciplinary collaborations. This framework will provide a multi-dimensional decision-making toolkit that would also lead towards more efficient SEAs (Strategic Environmental Assessment) as well as providing the ability to embed the CIAs of projects into regional and multinational schemes.
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