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Understanding the Avian-Impact Offset Method—A tutorial

September 19, 2022

Biodiversity offsetting, or compensatory mitigation, is increasingly being used in temperate grassland and wetland ecosystems to compensate for unavoidable environmental damage from anthropogenic disturbances such as energy development and road construction. Energy-extraction and -generation facilities continue to proliferate across the natural landscapes of the United States, yet mitigation tools to ameliorate the negative behavioral effects on wildlife from these types of facilities are rarely implemented. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a 10-year before-after-control-impact (commonly referred to as BACI) study that evaluated the displacement effects of wind facilities on breeding grassland birds. The study determined behavioral avoidance for 7 of 9 species. This research is notable because of its design, geographical scope, and duration, which allowed for the determination of immediate, short-term effects; delayed or sustained effects; and discrete distances at which effects occurred. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited conducted a 3-year concurrent-year paired-reference study to determine behavioral avoidance for five species of dabbling ducks. By quantifying displacement rate from these two studies, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists developed the Avian-Impact Offset Method (AIOM) to quantify and compensate for loss in value of breeding habitat. The AIOM converts the biological value (that is, number of bird pairs) lost by way of avoidance and estimates the site-specific number of hectares of grasslands and number of wetlands needed to compensate for displaced pairs of grassland birds and waterfowl. By converting biological value to traditional units of measure in which land is described and purchased or sold, the AIOM lends itself readily to the delivery of offsetting measures such as easement protections and restoration projects. The AIOM tool is applicable to wind, solar, oil, gas, and transportation infrastructure.

This tutorial was designed to increase awareness of the AIOM and to promote its proper application. The tutorial is divided into four sections, each of which explains a discrete topic concerning aspects of behavioral displacement. The first section provides geographical and biological context, and the second section describes the field and statistical methods and results. The third section provides step-by-step instructions for applying the AIOM to several scenarios involving grassland birds or waterfowl at wind or oil facilities. The fourth section describes decision-support tools created to implement the AIOM. The appendices provide the actual field protocols constituting the methods for the research, provide detailed results by species and wind facility for that research, and provide detailed instructions for downloading and applying the decision-support tools.

Publication Year 2022
Title Understanding the Avian-Impact Offset Method—A tutorial
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221049
Authors Jill A. Shaffer, Charles R. Loesch, Deborah A. Buhl
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1049
Index ID ofr20221049
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center