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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Operationalisation of ecological compensation - Obstacles and ways forward

Blicharska, Malgorzata; Hedblom, Marcus; Josefsson, Jonas; Widenfalk, Olof; Ranius, Thomas; Ockinger, Erik; Widenfalk, Lina A.


Ecological compensation (EC) has been proposed as an important tool for stopping the loss of biodiversity and natural values. However, there are few studies on its actual operationalisation and there is high uncertainty about how it should be designed and implemented to be an effective way of performing nature conservation. In this study we focus on ecological compensation in Sweden, a country where it is in the process of being implemented more broadly. Using interviews and a workshop we investigate how the work with the implementation is carried out and what challenges exist. The results show that implementation of EC is at an early stage of development and there are many practical obstacles, linked to both legislation and routines in the planning processes. There is a lack of holistic perspective and large-scale thinking, a quite strong focus on a small number of individual species, and an overall attitude that anything is better than nothing, all of which can have negative consequences for biodiversity conservation overall. Based on the results we discuss the need for better integration of EC into the entire decision-making process and for a holistic approach to preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, by increasing the focus on landscape perspective and considering delays in compensation outcomes. There is also a need for a national level standard for EC, making good and worse examples of compensation measures available and systematic monitoring of EC projects. Finally, a spatially explicit database to document all EC areas should be introduced both to ensure consistency in protection from future development plans and to enable long-term monitoring of EC outcomes.


Biodiversity offset; Ecological compensation; Policy implementation; Stakeholder interview; Workshop

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2022, Volume: 304, article number: 114277