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Site Biodiversity Action Plans

For companies with land-holdings or activities that impact on ecosystems and habitats, the most effective means of managing biodiversity is through developing site Biodiversity Action Plans (site BAPs). Separate plans should be drawn-up for each site, and should be linked with local and national biodiversity priorities as well as the overall company BAP (CBAP)

In addition to assisting companies in managing their land holdings to benefit biodiversity, the process of developing and implementing a site BAP can be a useful mechanism for raising employee awareness about biodiversity, gaining stakeholder trust and buy-in, providing training and motivation for staff to become involved in the process and demonstrating what a company is undertaking for the local environment and community. A tool which has been developed for companies managing sites is the Wildlife Trust’s Benchmark

A five-step framework for developing and implementing site specific BAP’s is outlined below.

1. Securing Internal Support

Top level endorsement of and commitment to the site BAP are essential for the process to succeed. In making the case to the board, proponents will need to present relevant drivers and benefits of the site BAP. While it is often difficult to place a monetary value on the benefits of site BAPs, there will be numerous positive effects such as improved community relations and staff morale and reduced risk to the license to operate. It is therefore useful to work with other departments, such as public relations or human resources, to implement and advertise the full benefits of site BAPs.

Implementation of a site BAP will also require support from management at the site. Managers need to be aware of biodiversity targets in order to plan adjustments to operations. For instance, changing mowing regimes may require associated public awareness raising strategies to reduce criticism of a site’s visual appeal. Involvement through incorporating actions into job specifications secures long-term commitment to site BAPs.

Involving staff can positively contribute to the process of developing a site BAP and subsequently carrying out actions and monitoring activities. Site BAP activities can be written into individual job objectives or be encouraged as special interest voluntary activities. For instance at Center Parcs 70% of the monitoring is carried out by volunteer staff.

Many companies have found that a biodiversity ‘champion,’ someone who is the designated lead on biodiversity activities, can be invaluable in driving the development, implementation and monitoring of a site BAP.

2. Drawing up the Site BAP

Site BAPs need to be realistic. It is easy to under-estimate financial, time and human resource requirements, particularly at the onset of creating a site BAP. Using existing information helps save on costs and identifies overlaps between a company’s objectives and biodiversity targets while setting and reviewing priorities in consultation with stakeholders ensures realistic expectations.

Drawing up a site BAP begins by conducting a survey of biodiversity around a site. The industry standard is to collect data within a two kilometre radius of a site centre using the Extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveying technique

The method provides a snap-shot of which species are present, and a desk study is often sufficient to identify whether a site includes protected species. While Extended Phase 1 Habitat surveys can be undertaken throughout the year, it is preferable to conduct surveys in the summer when more species can be seen and identified. Experts should not only be knowledgeable in the local natural environment, but also connected to the community. For a comprehensive list of environmental consultants within the UK, visit Ends Directory

Following the survey, classification of a site aims to identify priorities for conservation. Companies are legally bound to identify and protect certain species and some sites may have statutory classification, such as SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), applied to them. Expert advice may be useful to help identify legal conservation requirements: Local BAP practitioners, Wildlife Trusts, Ecology Consultants, and specialist NGOs will usually be aware of the status of national and local priority species and habitats as well as protected areas.

Planning the action plan
While management plans are usually needed for larger or more diverse sites, a ‘brief’ may be sufficient for smaller or less diverse sites. Regardless of the format selected for the management plan, setting targets in a site BAP is important in order to monitor biodiversity and identify when actions need to be taken. Many companies find that incrementally integrating the process into their Environmental Management System (EMS) is the best way to achieve these objectives.

3. Stakeholder Involvement

A central feature of the site BAP process is the involvement of partners as stakeholders in the planning process and as resources in the implementation and monitoring phases. The local BAP partnership will have information about biodiversity priorities as well as relevant conservation organisations and potential BAP partners in the area.

Stakeholders include local, regional and national government, the local community, local Biodiversity Partnerships as well as employees who are or need to be involved in the site BAP process. Each type of organisation has its strengths and weaknesses and it is important to assess the need of the company when selecting partner organisations.

Companies find working with partners easier if they build partnerships with organisations that have similar cultures, match site BAP needs to the skills of groups, provide support and offer some rewards for work done. Support need not be in the form of cash but could involve publicity, training or the donating of equipment such as simple tools. For more on stakeholder involvement visit the Stakeholder involvement page.

4. Implementing and Monitoring Site BAPs

Implementation of a site BAP is an ongoing process that involves monitoring throughout the year, draws attention to issues as they arise, and identifies new species which were not present at the time of the initial survey. Any changes to species or habitat should be reflected in the ecological survey report and assessed against the targets set out in the site BAP with adjustments made to actions as necessary.

Ongoing monitoring is an effective means of gathering data about species and in order to assess the effects of a site BAP on the habitat, a site will require re-surveying. Many company sites are subject to continuous development and changes affecting habitats which may not have been accounted for in the original site BAP. Biodiversity outcomes of actions like rehabilitation are often long term and the results may not be seen for several years. It has therefore been recommend that surveys be repeated once every ten years or on 10 – 15% of a company’s land holdings each year. Updating the site BAP with Local BAP priorities is an important part of this process. The Local BAP page on the UK BAP web site can be used to identify the local BAP priorities.

Monitoring need not be a complex process, and some companies suggest using Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) as a starting point and to create a simple database or spreadsheet to record and monitor quantitative information. Even though levels of a species will fluctuate, specifying minimum targets for a given species at a particular time will highlight when action is needed for a specific species.

Also, the UK Biodiversity Action Reporting System (BARS) is a web-based information system that supports the planning, monitoring and reporting requirements of national, local and company Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs). Everyone working on BAPs at national and local levels can maintain their data in a secure environment and integrate it across users and organisations to provide an overview of BAP progress for each species and habitat and at different geographical scales. For more information click here.

5. Communicating and reporting

One of the ways in which a company can obtain positive value from a site BAP is through internally and externally communicating the progress. A company’s image and reputation may benefit from what has been acheived by holding talks or walks for the community, issuing press releases or convening meetings of local stakeholders. Newsletters, intranet, presentations or guided walks are effective means through which a company can inform and involve staff. Finally, if a company has an EMS or issues an Environmental Report, the site BAP should be reported through these systems. Reaping the full benefits of a site BAP will involve developing an accompanying communications strategy. See the Monitoring and Reporting page.

Photo Credit: Mark Cherrington/ Earthwatch Institute


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