The Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management AEAM in INSROP - Impact Assessment Design

(By Jorn Thomassen, Stig Magnar Lovеs, Sylvi Vefsnmo ; INSROP Working Paper No. 31 – 1996, II.5.6)

An important part of the INSROP Sub-Programme II, Environmental Factors, is to work out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for an extended use of the Northern Sea Route. The goal for an EIA is to form a basis for decision makers concerning the NSR. An approach of the Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management (AEAM) methodological concept (Holling 1978) is chosen for this purpose. One of the strengths of the AEAM concept is that it facilitates an interdisciplinary evaluation of multi-disciplinary information, which should be necessary in an EIA.

In the EIA concept for the NSR, it is of critical value to define and describe the various NSR scenarios in time and space, identify their corresponding impact factors on the environment in particular and on the community in general, and make an evaluation of the impact significance. So far only rough outlines of the NSR scenarios

have been available in the EIA work, and in phase II of INSROP emphasis will be placed on a critical evaluation and final decision of the NSR activities in time and space as a basis for the final EIA analysis.

Experience tells us that the greatest contribution of an EIA to environmental management is the adjusting of plans to mitigate negative impacts at an early stage in the process. The importance in the EIA process of focusing on a limited number of priority issues should therefore be obvious. In this scoping process of the EIA, based on the best available scenario outlines (see Thomassen et al 1994), we have focused on selected issues, so called valued ecosystem components (VECs), which are thought to be important for decision making.

A VEC is defined as a resource or environmental feature that is important (not only economically) to a local human population, or has a national or international profile, or if altered from its existing status, will be important for the evaluation of environmental impacts of industrial developments, and the focusing of administrative efforts (Hansson et al. 1990). The selection of VECs is probably the most important and at the same time the most difficult step in the process of selection and focusing in the EIA. The critical point is to focus on decision making, which in turn calls for a strong critical sense in the selection process as there is room only for a limited number of VECs.

The VECs selected and later on evaluated consist of single species, groups of species as well as habitats:

  • VEC Benthic invertebrates
  • VEC Marine estuaries and anadromous fish
  • VEC Plant and animal life in polynyas
  • VEC Seabirds
  • VEC Sea ducks and geese
  • VEC Waders in feeding and resting areas
  • VEC Beluga
  • VEC Bowhead whale
  • VEC Grey whale
  • VEC Ringed seal
  • VEC Bearded seal
  • VEC Walrus
  • VEC Polar bear
  • VEC Water/land border zone
  • VEC Human settlement

The various NSR-activities and their corresponding impact factors on these VECs have been evaluated through testing of a number of impact hypotheses. The significance of the VECs in an INSROP context can thereby be obtained. The detailed results of this work are found in Larsen et al. (1995), Wiig et al. (1996) and Bakken et al. (1996).

In the INSROP scoping process in Sub-Programme II, the social and political factors were for different reasons not given priority, which is a weakness in the process so far. However, in the final EIA, designed to be completed in phase II, necessary efforts will be made to include these factors in the total analysis, which in turn calls for an interdisciplinary approach and cooperation between all INSROP Sub-Programmes.

The main purpose of the risk assessment in the EIA will be to consider appropriate mitigable measures and to evaluate possible consequences of accidents on the environment. On the one hand, the risk assessment will be focused on the environment, and addressed through the selection of VECs and their corresponding IHs. The vulnerability of each VEC in time and space is of major importance when considering the possible negative impacts of the NSR activities. These environmental factors combined with the probability in time and space of various accidents will give necessary input to the EIA.

The GIS will be a valuable tool in the analysis as well as in communicating the results and the conclusions, including recommendations for mitigating measures, monitoring programmes and further investigations to the decision makers.


    Jшrn Thomassen, Stig Magnar Lшvеs, Sylvi Vefsnmo, 1996, The Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management AEAM in INSROP - Impact Assessment Design, INSROP.©