Integrating ecological equivalence for native vegetation compensation: A methodological approach

Kaline de Mello, Arthur Nicolaus Fendrich, Clarice Borges-Matos, Alice Dantas Brites, Paulo André Tavares, Gustavo Casoni da Rocha, Marcelo Matsumoto, Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, Carlos Alfredo Joly, Gerd Sparovek, Jean Paul Metzger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although offsetting schemes may avoid biodiversity loss, the implementation of these schemes can be challenging, given the difficulty of balancing biodiversity benefits with the resulting increase in compensation costs. Here we have developed a novel offsetting methodological approach to balance environmental gains and land availability to support the decision-making process and negotiations among stakeholders. We applied this approach for the compensation of Legal Reserves, a percentage of native vegetation area that landowners have to set apart in their rural properties in Brazil to maintain native vegetation. If landowners do not reach the Legal Reserves requirements on their land according to the law, they may compensate it in other equivalent properties. To balance environmental gains and land availability, we have developed a dynamic tool that allows users to objectively analyze results from multiple offsetting scenarios. These scenarios can combine different levels of abiotic and biotic equivalence requirements, along with the possibility of trading up, i.e. compensating in priority natural vegetation areas and/or priority areas for restoration, even without high equivalence, with the resulting balance on land availability. The proposed approach seeks to find acceptable solutions, balancing stakeholder requirements for ecological equivalence, land availability, and possibilities of trading up. This procedure can enhance the local trade of Legal Reserves compensation, minimizing biodiversity losses, and also reducing costs. Our case study shows that it is possible to apply ecological equivalence in a balanced manner for Legal Reserve compensation. Owing to its flexibility, the proposed approach and tool can be easily adopted by other compensation schemes worldwide, supporting the negotiation and decision-making processes, to reduce biodiversity loss.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105568
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


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