Request > Incorporating ecosystem services in mitigation hierarchy policy

How can we improve adherence to the mitigation hierarchy using ecosystem services with particular focus on the avoid stage?

Requester: Office Français de la Biodiversité (OFB) – French Agency for Biodiversity

Type of request: Knowledge Synthesis

This request aims to explore and identify existing knowledge, gaps and trade-offs in the context of the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, reduce, restore, compensate). Particularly by trying to tackle the challenge of the effective application of the first step, “avoid”, in the mitigation hierarchy and impact assessment to enhance biodiversity conservation and understand risks and potential ecosystem service trade-offs.

Reference: Request CfR.5/2020/2

Contact points

KCB Focal Point: Agnes Zolyomi, Onno Knol (deputy)
EMB Contact Point: Karla E. Locher

Final outputs

Document of Work: file.22.02.2021

In France, the principles of the hierarchy have been reaffirmed by the law “Reconquest of biodiversity, nature and landscapes” of 2016. Each project, plan or program leading an impact assessment is requested first to avoid, to reduce, and then to mitigate its effects on biodiversity. Concerning the first stage of the hierarchy, ecosystem services are explicitly mentioned in the law. To be authorised, a project, plan, or program must demonstrate the correct implementation of the hierarchy, including the first step “avoid”, in the impact assessment. The matching authorisation process is the stage of decision making that is concerned by the request. It will inform both project managers (to prepare the impact assessment), as well as public authorities (to deliver the authorisation). The policy context is the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy.


Date request received: April/2020

End of Call for Knowledge (CfK): 11/12/2020

Call for experts (CfE): open call (until 12/05/2021)

The first step of the mitigation hierarchy consists in avoiding that a project, a plan or a program negatively affects biodiversity, including ecosystem services. In practice, the implementation of the hierarchy shows that the first step is neither correctly applied nor well-documented. A common mistake is the lack of consideration for ecosystem services at the “avoid” (but not only) stage of the hierarchy. Knowledge gap does not seem to explain this state of play, because the scientific community developed many tools and methods to assess ecosystem services over the last decades. We advocate that the development of a simple, ready-to-use decision-making tool could increase the consideration for ecosystem services. A preliminary step should clarify whether and in which way the consideration of ecosystem services is fostering the preservation of biodiversity. The Eklipse approach would be very useful to review and synthesise the existing practices in EU member states.

Scoping phase

The Document of Work (DoW) described the results of the scoping activities as well as the background of the request and was the basis for the call for experts.