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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process by which potential ecological impacts of a development are identified and quantified. However, this is only part of the assessment process: once potential impacts have been identified, it is necessary to find ways of avoiding, minimising or compensating for any identified potential adverse impacts to allow appropriate development. aec has extensive experience in finding ways to deal with what initially appear to be major potential adverse ecological impacts in such a way that our clients achieve their development objectives without adversely impacting the environment.

Ecological Impact Assessment (EcolIA)
aec specialises in ecological impact assessments (EcolIA), with over ten yearsˇ¦ experience in providing ecological support for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for major projects including large-scale infrastructure developments and residential and other projects in ecologically-sensitive areas. aec works closely with a project's design team and engages with relevant stakeholders, including Government and green groups, to develop practicable mitigation strategies. An EcolIA typically comprises the following elements:

  • Comprehensive initial baseline assessment (desktop review and ecological baseline surveys)
  • Assessment of potential ecological impacts arising as a result of the development
  • Evaluation of predicted impacts
  • Recommendation of cost-effective and practicable alternatives and mitigation measures
  • Recommendation of appropriate monitoring and audit protocol programmes

Habitats and Species: Surveys, Monitoring and Audits
A sound understanding of local and regional ecology is essential for all development projects. If identified and addressed in the early planning stages, the key ecological factors of a given site can be leveraged to the benefit of the final project. aec has extensive experience in the taxonomic groups and ecological factors in the Hong Kong and South China regions, with a surveying and monitoring team comprised of dedicated experts in avifauna, mammals, herpetofauna, dragonflies, butterflies, flora and terrestrial, freshwater and intertidal invertebrate communities.

Habitat, Botanical and Faunal Surveys
An understanding of the ecological resources of a site is an essential prerequisite of the planning and development process, whether the site is the proposed location of a single house or an entire region. In order to inform the planning and development process it is necessary to collect, analyse and present data that reliably describe habitats, flora and fauna of a site and accurately places their relative importance in context.

Fauna surveys
aec is equipped to conduct fauna surveys at both the baseline evaluation and ecological monitoring stages of individual sites. Along with standard survey techniques (walked transects, point counts), aec's expert ecologists have extensive experience with remote surveys (camera trapping, radio-tracking, satellite-tracking) and specialist trapping techniques (mist-netting, bottle-trapping, benthic grabs) to maximise baseline data gathering.

aec's ecologists are experienced in survey and reporting for a full range of terrestrial and marine fauna, including:
  • Mammals
  • Avifauna
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Butterflies
  • Cetaceans
  • Dragonflies and Damselflies
  • Freshwater invertebrates
  • Fish
  • Intertidal vertebrates
  • Subtidal and Corals

Freshwater invertebrate surveys and identification + Freshwater biodiversity surveys
Freshwater invertebrates are indicators of the health of an aquatic system, whether it be standing water in lowland fishponds or a fast-flowing stream in the hills. Freshwater invertebrates require specific abiotic conditions within a body of water, and they in turn are often food for larger organisms higher up the food chain. By conducting biodiversity surveys in these habitats, the overall health and ecological condition of bodies of water can be scientifically appraised.

Ecological Mitigation
Ecological mitigation is the crucial second step following the ecological survey and impact assessment for proposed developments. aec's specialists are dedicated to formulating and implementing the most cost-effective and practicable mitigation strategies available, allowing clients to balance their commitment to ecological stewardship with their development goals.

Ecological Mitigation Plan
An ecological mitigation plan is a standard requirement at the EIA stage of any project in which significant ecological impacts are predicted. aec's expert ecological mitigation plans typically consist of strategies to, in order of importance, avoid impacting important habitats or species altogether, mitigate unavoidable impacts where necessary and compensate for any habitat loss. These plans serve as the conceptual basis for the subsequent detailed project design phase.

Ecological Mitigation Timing
Enacting mitigation measures with optimal timing is crucial to their effectiveness. Ideally, these mitigation measures are completed prior to any other project construction. However, in practice, this is not always possible. In such circumstances, aec's expertise proves invaluable, as careful planning and liaison with the project team and external stakeholders becomes crucial to ensure the viability of mitigation plans and the project plan as a whole.

Ecological Mitigation Construction
As many contractors have limited experience in the enhancement and creation of mitigation habitats, especially wetlands, expertly overseeing their implementation of mitigation plans is crucial. aec has extensive experience in contractor supervision during the construction of mitigation measures, particularly in regard to habitat creation and enhancement, making our expertise invaluable during this stage of development.

Ecological Adaptive Management
Even after a mitigation area is established, skilfully monitoring its physical characteristics and use by target species is necessary. The information collected from such monitoring is essential in demonstrating the design of the mitigation area has been successfully implemented and in informing the longer-term management of the site. aec's experience invariably demonstrates that the ecological benefits of properly implemented and monitored ecological mitigation strategies go above and beyond simply the target species.

Ecology in the Master Planning Process
An understanding of a site's ecological resources is an important building block in the master planning process. On some sites, such ecological resources may be a major factor in determining the layout of a development. If ecological considerations are integrated throughout the master planning process, there is a much higher chance that the preferred master plan will not only meet regulatory requirements but also deliver what the projectproponent seeks in terms of development goals.

Wildlife Habitat Restoration and Creation
The most exciting aspect of the interface between ecology and the development process is the opportunity to restore or create wildlife habitats. Often, enhancing the ecological value of a site is not only a way of satisfying the statutory requirements of the EIA Ordinance process, but also a means for developers to add value to a project by improving the landscape and visual quality for end-users. In addition, such habitat enhancements can also make a lasting and meaningful contribution to wildlife conservation and environmental protection.

Habitat creation
aec's experts are able to design, create, restore and manage habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. aec is one of the most trusted providers of habitat solutions in Hong Kong.

Compensatory habitat creation, restoration and management may form a part of project approval conditions under current government legislation. With aec's expertise, we are able to help clients develop efficient, appropriate compensatory plans that meet all government standards and clients' specific project goals.

Biodiversity training
aec's senior ecologists have provided ecological survey training for government and local authority staff in South China. They are highly skilled in providing training in survey techniques, impact assessment and strategy formulation and can develop bespoke in-house training for a wide range of professionals with varying levels of ecology understanding, including NGO staff, engineers, landscape architects, property developers and educators. These training sessions can focus on either a scientific or consultancy perspective, based on the client's specific requirements.

Condition monitoring of SSSIs and other protected sites
aec ecologists are highly experienced in the systematic monitoring of Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and mitigation wetlands in order to satisfy Hong Kong's Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance Environmental Permit conditions. A range of faunal surveys, habitat mapping and abiotic measurements are employed to help guide adaptive management practices and techniques for a site. This allows for an objective, scientific evaluation of the overall ecological status of a site to be assessed and the efficiency of the site management techniques to be measured.

GIS Mapping and Environmental Data Management
GIS mapping plays a crucial role in transferring field knowledge into the common language of a project team. Conversant with the latest in GIS technologies, including ArcView, MicroStation, and AutoCAD, aec is able to capture, store, analyse and manage various categories of geographic data and present them according to the needs of individual clients and projects.

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