Biodiversity credits for the voluntary market

Client Name
Confidential - Investment
Location
Scotland
  • Natural capital & ecosystem services

Challenge

The project is a c. 20km² estate in the Scottish Highlands, with diverse geology and habitats, from improved grazing and commercial forestry, to alpine heath, bog, calcareous grassland and native woodland.

The client’s vision is to create a land management plan which both delivers overall positive outcomes for biodiversity alongside much needed commodities such as timber.

Solution

SLR were asked to design an approach to biodiversity baselining in line with the Wallacea Trust / RePlanet methodology to be implemented across the whole estate, including areas such as commercial afforestation where biodiversity losses may be expected, to avoid any risk of greenwashing or selective monitoring (cherry picking). The approach taken therefore involves monitoring areas where biodiversity gains are anticipated as well as areas where losses may occur.

Following the RePlanet guidance, metrics were selected to be relevant to the ecosystem services that would be influenced by the proposed changes in land management, including native and commercial afforestation and reduced grazing. In addition, these metrics were selected so the main components of the food chain (trophic levels) are represented, including decomposers, plants (primary producers), herbivores (primary consumers) and carnivores (secondary / tertiary consumers). The taxonomic units chosen for each metric (e.g. breeding birds) all have a large number of species with potential to respond to changes in habitat type and quality. This is important for a calculation approach based on the number and abundance of species and their conservation value.

Field methods were designed to be cost-effective and repeatable / comparable in both in current and future habitats, with sampling points stratified to reflect the distribution of habitats and expected habitat transitions. This included, for example, comparison of the costs and scientific merits of traditional field surveys compared to approaches such as DNA metabarcoding and acoustic recorders. Where practical, and following suitable training, estate staff have been involved, including with data collection.

Impact

Data collection for baseline unit calculation is nearing completion and the project is expected to go through independent peer review via the Biodiversity Future Initiative in 2024. This will provide a clear baseline of the current biodiversity value across the estate against which the benefits of implementing the land biodiversity enhancement plan can be measured.

We are expecting the application of this and similar approaches to biodiversity quantification to become increasingly mainstream both for biodiversity credit projects and potentially corporate biodiversity monitoring reporting (e.g. in line with TNFD). Especially as approaches to reducing monitoring costs are rapidly emerging.

SLR works with a range of organisations to advise on appropriate approaches to biodiversity quantification, for corporate reporting (e.g. TNFD and CSRD), biodiversity enhancement (nature positive) ambitions, and biodiversity / nature credits.

We are increasingly working with clients on projects involving agricultural supply chains and forestry. Many of these projects involve close collaborations with our other technical specialists, and include consideration of climate resilience, carbon and communities.

Following an initial review, the RePlanet team commented on the selection of metrics, saying:

"This approach to selecting the metrics is really thorough and should be an example to others following your approach."

And in relation to monitoring design, added:

"Just as with the selection of metrics, this is a very thorough piece of work."