Environmental impact assessment on raptor populations: difficulties in implementation and a search for solutions
Published: Volume 50(1), June 2003. Pages 85-102.
Original Title: La evaluación de impacto ambiental sobre las poblaciones de aves rapaces: problemas de ejecución y posibles soluciones
Keywords: demography, environmental impact assessment, environmental impact studies, habitat selection, population dynamics, raptors, scales of analysis, strategic environmental assessment and umbrella species
The environmental impact assessment of projects is currently the main tool for preventing negative impacts of human activities on natural resources, thus allowing the integration of socio-economic development and conservation. Unfortunately, the general low quality of environmental impact studies, and thus the assessments derived from them, makes them useless for accomplishing this task. In this paper we review biological information potentially useful for the proper development of studies of environmental impact on raptor populations in Spain. Our main aim is to analyse whether the low quality that characterizes this type of studies is due to a lack of relevant biological information on raptors, or to limitations, either intrinsic or extrinsic, of the environmental impact assessment process itself that intends to protect raptors populations from potentially harmful human activities. Based on a selective literature review, we conclude that there is sufficient biological information to carry out proper studies of the impact of human activities on most Spanish raptor populations, provided that the focus is on the effects on nesting places and home ranges; however, there is a general lack of relevant information needed to evaluate impacts on populations and metapopulations. We suggest that both the environmental impact studies and the professionals who work on them should be monitored much more closely by the public administration, in order to prevent malfunctions or wrong assessments from an ecological viewpoint. Also, we indicate which are the main limitations encountered when analysing impacts on a large-scale basis, i.e. on raptor populations and metapopulations. In order to solve problems associated with the latter, we recommend, on the one hand, the acquisition of proper ecological data and information, and, on the other, the implementation of Strategic Environmental Assessments of Plans and Programs of Development.