Compensation is a wide term that encompasses several types of actions to reward or pay for environmental losses. Compensation may be implemented considering ecological equivalence, which requires the use of common biodiversity components to compare biodiversity losses and gains. There may be levels of equivalence across compensation, and one of them is called offset, a contentious conservation tool to counterbalance losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services in one place by generating equivalent benefits elsewhere. Although offsets may represent a major requirement for biodiversity conservation, the incorporation of ecological equivalence into compensation practice may be unfeasible by several challenges and conflicts in its implementation. A great concern regarding compensation with ecological equivalence for landowners is that it can restrict the areas available for trade and raise the costs. This project aims at developing a methodological framework to evaluate scenarios of native vegetation compensation including ecological equivalence (like for like) and regional conservation and restoration priorities (trading up). We will compare different scenarios of compensation through an environmental-economic balance, and apply this methodological framework to current and urgent demand: the compensation of Legal Reserve (LR) according to the New Brazilian Forest Act. We will compare at least five scenarios of LR compensation: (1) Counterfactual scenario - without ecological equivalence or trading up; (2) Ecological equivalence without restoration scenario - only like for like in existing surplus of native vegetation; (3) Ecological equivalence with restoration scenario - only like for like in existing native vegetation or with the restoration of pasture with low land suitability; (4) Trading up scenario - only trading up for regional priorities areas for conservation and restoration; (5) Ecological equivalence and trading up scenario - application of both alternatives (like for like and trading up including existing native vegetation and restoration). We will use the LR deficit to define the amount of compensation. To represent environmental benefits, we will use vegetation extent (additionality) and habitat quality (overall ecological equivalence and number of species). To evaluate the economic use of land, we will use the land cost and land availability (native vegetation surplus, pasture with low land suitability and areas for trading up). These parameters will be used to develop a framework to compare the scenarios. The results will indicate the best alternatives for native vegetation compensation that allow a good balance between environmental benefits and economic use of land, promoting local trade of native vegetation existing, or the restoration of pasture with low land suitability, or yet trading up for areas of high conservation and restoration value. We expect to answer how to deal with different alternatives for native vegetation compensation, how to balance the use of restoration for native vegetation compensation, and how to balance the use of trading up without compromising ecological equivalence. This study will contribute to minimizing biodiversity and ecosystem services losses while ensures land productivity. We expect that this framework will contribute to the implementation of native vegetation compensation strategies in other states in Brazil and other regions worldwide.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: