Impact Assessment

Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)

In this chapter we apply the concepts developed previously in this book to the specific issue of determining the effects of environmental impacts on wildlife. Impact is a general term used to describe any change that perturbs the current system, whether it is planned or unplanned, human induced, or an act of nature. Thus, impacts include a 100-year flood that destroys a well-developed riparian woodland, a disease that decimates an elk herd, or the planned or unplanned application of fertilizer. Impacts also include projects that are intended to improve conditions for animals such as ecological restoration. For example, removal of exotic salt cedar from riparian areas to enhance cottonwood regeneration can substantially impact the existing site conditions.

You have likely already encountered many situations that fall into the latter category; namely, studies that are constrained by location and time. Such situations often arise in environmental studies because the interest (e.g., funding agency) is local, such as the response of plants and animals to treatments (e.g., fire, herbicide) applied on a management area of a few 100 to a few 1,000 ha. Often these treatments are applied to small plots to evaluate one resource, such as plants, and you have been funded to study animal responses. In such situations, the initial plots might be too small to adequately sample many animal species. Or, there might be no treatment involved, and the project focus is to quantify the ecology of some species within a small temporal and spatial scale. It is important for students to note that most resource management is applied locally; that is, on a small spatial scale to respond to the needs of local resource managers. The suite of study designs that fall under the general rubric of impact assessment are applicable to studies that are not viewed as having caused an environmental impact per se. Designs that we cover below, such as after-only gradient designs, are but one example.

In this chapter we will concentrate on impacts that are seldom planned, and are usually considered to be a negative influence on the environment. But this need not be so, and the designs described herein have wide applicability to the study of wildlife.


Impact Assessment Wind Turbine Reference Site Control Site Wind Farm 
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