Developing Integrated Biodiversity Impact Assessment (IBIA): Data limitations on GIS support
biodiversity, datasets, impact assessment, quality, scale, spatial data
The effectiveness of an Integrated Biodiversity Impact Assessment (IBIA) methodology largely depends on the availability and accessibility of relevant information. Exhaustive biodiversity data are commonly collated by specialists at the local level, yet geographic coverage of such surveys is limited and the findings are rarely shared among practitioners. In contrast, available national studies tend to focus on wider biodiversity considerations, such as the boundaries and general characteristics of designated sites or green infrastructure corridors, which lack the detail needed for undertaking local or project-level IBIA. Data limitations become more significant when applying GIS to IBIA, as assessment detail is further constrained by the scale and completeness of available spatial datasets. Moreover, the general lack of quality assurance and metadata for readily accessible datasets poses additional constraints on scientific information flow. Although GIS have the potential to support and enhance IBIA by providing spatially-specific and replicable methods, as well as evidence-based findings, successful GIS application and reliability of assessment are strongly linked to the quality of datasets used. This paper provides an overview of spatial datasets judged critical for IBIA. It identifies common gaps in spatial data infrastructures associated with landscape, biodiversity, flora and fauna at EU level. It also evaluates the applicability of available datasets by examining correlations and inconsistencies with regards to metadata, frequency, compatibility, accuracy, scale and completeness of datasets, among other technical considerations, using Ireland as a case study. The paper concludes with recommendations to assist in resolving current biodiversity spatial data limitations.