Ecological impact assessment (EcIA) is not a term that most Australasian ecologists are familiar with. EcIA is an independent, stand-alone process that may or may not form part of an EIA. Ecology is a particular science, so implementation of EcIA requires a particular approach, whether this is part of an EIA or not. There are a number of common procedural steps in EcIA. Notably, the "scoping" phase is of particular importance but is rarely formally required, often incompletely addressed, or missed altogether.
Simon Mustoe introduces EcIA at the International Ecology Conference in Brisbane.
It is described in the introduction of Treweek (1999) as:
'the process of identifying, quantifying and evaluating the potential impacts of defined actions on ecosystems or their components. If properly implemented it provides a scientifically defensible approach to ecosystem management...' and
'It is often used in conjunction with environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies with a broader remit, which also considers the social and economic consequences of development activities'.
The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the United Kingdom says of EcIA that:
'The EcIA process should be iterative and be able to respond to increasing knowledge of a project and its impacts as the project evolves. It is also a ‘partnership’ process, which is most effective if all relevant ecologists and other specialists work in collaboration. The product of an EcIA should provide the means of gaining understanding of the findings and support for its proposals from non-specialists by making clear the impacts of any proposal'.
In summary, to undertake EcIA properly so that it is defensible, it must be properly implemented, collaborative and quantifiable.
As discussed in the EIANZ Ecology forum on best practice, the "proper implementation" of methods in any industry depends on the industry setting its own standards. EIANZ Ecology plans to start developing guidelines for EcIA in Australia and New Zealand. EIANZ has also deveoped a working group for review of the EPBC Act. It may become increasingly important to recognise standards of practice, if the terms of such legislation are to be put in practice.