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Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment

The Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment (ESR for IA) provides practical instructions to environmental and social practitioners on how to incorporate ecosystem services throughout environmental and social impact assessment.

The latest version of the ESR for IA is now available here.

Executive Summary

Lending and government institutions, such as the International Finance Corporation and the US Council on Environmental Quality, now require the explicit consideration of ecosystem services in impact assessment.

However, according to a survey carried out by WRI, the guidance documents currently available for addressing ecosystem services in Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) are seen by practitioners as insufficiently detailed to move ESIA practices forward.

To fill this gap in practical guidance, the Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment (ESR for IA) provides: (1) A conceptual framework of how the project, ecosystem services and human well-being are linked and (2) step-by-step instructions to systematically incorporate ecosystem services


The ESR for IA will be presented in two successive working papers (WP): Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment: Introduction and Guide to Scoping (available above) and Complementing Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to Address Ecosystem Services: The Ecosystem Services Review for Impact Assessment. WP 2 is due in the first quarter of 2013. It will provide a revised version of WP 1 and instructions to conduct the ESR for IA at the Impact Analysis and Mitigation Stages. It will also incorporate the comments from six retrospective road-tests (i.e. implementation of the ESR for IA on completed ESIAs).

Conceptual Framework

The ESR for IA’s conceptual framework builds on the elements and causal relations of the original Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Framework (Figure 1). By explicitly recognizing the causal interactions between the project, human well-being and the indirect and direct drivers of ecosystem change, the ESR for IA framework supports an integrated assessment of elements commonly assessed separately in an ESIA.

Figure 1: Conceptual framework for assessing project impact and dependence on ecosystem services (Click to Enlarge)

Why Use the Ecosystems Services Review for Impact Assessments?

The ESR for IA helps social and environmental impact assessment practitioners deliver the following:

  • Systematic integration of environmental and socio-economic issues.
  • Assessment of project dependence on ecosystem services.
  • Consideration of multi-scale impacts and dependence.
  • Identification of indirect and cumulative impacts.
  • Identification, communication, and negotiation with stakeholders.
  • Comply with the new International Finance Corporation (IFC) performance standards.


Ecosystem Services Requirements in new IFC Performance Standards

Starting January 2012, IFC investments will be screened systematically for ecosystem service risks and impacts, which are mandated in multiple performance standards. These ecosystem service changes to the IFC standards are comprehensive and affect screening, mitigation, and compensation rules for future investments. They also include increased resources to strengthen IFC’s internal management capacity to assess ecosystem service risks and impacts. These additions to the performance standards complement existing requirements for safeguarding biodiversity and supporting sustainable natural resources management to reflect the importance of the environment for people’s health, culture and fundamental human rights.

The new standards include the following specific ecosystem services requirements:

  • Performance Standard 1-Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts – Identify all reasonably expected risks and impacts related to ecosystem services and use a broader definition of a project’s area of influence, which now includes indirect project impact on ecosystem services upon which Affected Communities’ livelihoods are dependent.

  • Performance Standard 4-Community Health, Safety, and Security – Assess and manage health, safety, and security risks to communities resulting from direct project impact on provisioning and regulating ecosystem services such as the loss of buffer areas (e.g., wetlands, mangroves, or upland forests.

  • Performance Standards 5-Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement – Assess impacts on and compensate for loss of provisioning ecosystem services resulting from land acquisition and involuntary resettlement.

  • Performance Standard 6-Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources – Carry out a systematic review (including participation of Affected Communities) of all ecosystem services a project will impact or is dependent upon to identify priority ecosystem services, and avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on priority ecosystem services for which a client has direct management control or significant influence.

  • Performance Standard 7-Indigenous Peoples – Assess provisioning and cultural ecosystem services when examining projects affecting Indigenous Peoples.

  • Performance Standard 8-Cultural Heritage – Maintain or restore any ecosystem processes and ecosystem services when replicable cultural heritage is removed.

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