6. Evaluation and monitoring

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Last update: June 2023 - How to cite


Transport infrastructure projects generate diverse impacts on habitats and species (see Chapter 1 – Ecological effects of infrastructure). European legislation and country specific regulations, require an assessment of these impacts on local biodiversity, and the design and application of mitigation measures to manage those impacts. These measures include actions to avoid, reduce or compensate for the impacts of any new infrastructure, and for enlargement and adaptation of infrastructure under operation (see Chapter 3 – The mitigation hierarchy). Monitoring and evaluation comprise the activities needed to understand whether these measures have been effective in mitigating impacts on biodiversity, and if not, apply corrective measures and verify whether these achieve its goals.

Main messages

  • Monitoring combines repeated observations and measurements taken over time, usually to assess the temporal change in a parameter either in response to a disturbance or intervention or to quantify the performance of a plan, project, measure or action.
  • Evaluation aims to critically assess the design, implementation and results of a plan, project, measure or action, in relation to its objectives.
  • Monitoring and evaluation have two main goals: i) assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures or actions in reaching the goals for which they have been designed, and ii) measure the effects of a plan or project on biodiversity conservation targets.
  • Research studies are a type of monitoring and evaluation that go beyond usual practice by conducting more advanced studies to assess the correlations or causality of an intervention or exposure on e.g. wildlife populations, habitats or ecosystems. These can provide valuable insights into not only on what works and does not but also on why which is fundamental to apply corrective actions efficiently.
  • The monitoring and evaluation plan should be designed, discussed, and approved within the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process and will be different depending on its aims. All monitoring and evaluation plans should: establish a biodiversity baseline, define clear goals, define the monitoring parameters, delineate the monitoring area, identify habitats and species to be monitored, define a time frame as well as methods, schemes, and techniques to be used, and agree on the form and scope of the monitoring outputs.
  • Planning and preparing an appropriate monitoring and evaluation plan takes place at the end of the initial Strategic Planning phase and throughout the successive phases of the project, from design, construction, and operation phases to decommissioning.
  • Establishing appropriate schemes, methods and techniques is fundamental to ensure comparability and replicability of monitoring and evaluation activities.

Actions to take

  • Define clear objectives (preferably SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) for monitoring and evaluation identifying which biodiversity elements and mitigation measures are the focus of monitoring.
  • Elaborate indicators, metrics, and tools to monitor the achievement of mitigation objectives.
  • Design clear and robust methods and techniques to ensure results are replicable, reliable and allow for drawing conclusions.
  • Propose a sampling design and evaluate its feasibility within the available budget. If not feasible propose a new sampling design and/or method and re-evaluate feasibility. In any case, appropriate methods must be applied allowing to achieve conclusive results.
  • Collect a robust baseline on natural habitats and species in the study area before project construction.
  • Follow clearly defined schemes, methods, and techniques to collect information in the study area about impacts on the biodiversity elements identified in the monitoring and evaluation plan.
  • Apply adaptative management principles by changing mitigation measures when monitoring shows that mitigation objectives are not being met (see Chapter 7 – Maintenance).
  • The use of new technologies such as DNA surveys, image processing using AI, bioacoustics or automatization of data collection, among others, have a huge potential to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of biodiversity monitoring and evaluation.
  • More research is needed on eco-ethology, or behavioural ecology, specifically about behaviour adopted by animals to maximise their chances of survival and reproduction in a given area, affected by transport infrastructure, in the current climate change scenario.

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