Considering Fish as Recipients of Ecosystem Services Provides a Framework to Formally Link Baseline, Development, and Post-operational Monitoring Programs and Improve Aquatic Impact Assessments for Large Scale Developments
In most countries, major development projects must satisfy an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process that considers positive and negative aspects to determine if it meets environmental standards and appropriately mitigates or offsets negative impacts on the values being considered. The benefits of before-after-control-impact monitoring designs have been widely known for more than 30 years, but most development assessments fail to effectively link pre- and post-development monitoring in a meaningful way. Fish are a common component of EIA evaluation for both socioeconomic and scientific reasons. The Ecosystem Services (ES) concept was developed to describe the ecosystem attributes that benefit humans, and it offers the opportunity to develop a framework for EIA that is centred around the needs of and benefits from fish. Focusing an environmental monitoring framework on the critical needs of fish could serve to better align risk, development, and monitoring assessment processes. We define the ES that fish provide in the context of two common ES frameworks. To allow for linkages between environmental assessment and the ES concept, we describe critical ecosystem functions from a fish perspective to highlight potential monitoring targets that relate to fish abundance, diversity, health, and habitat. Finally, we suggest how this framing of a monitoring process can be used to better align aquatic monitoring programs across pre-development, development, and post-operational monitoring programs.