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Impact classes of the superclass E1 - Nature

EI 1.1 Biodiversity:

The variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Throughout their life cycle, infrastructure assets can negatively impact the local biodiversity of a region by destroying habitats and disturbing local ecosystems. To mitigate these impacts, infrastructure companies may conserve, enhance or restore degraded ecosystems (United Nations, 1992).

EI 1.1.1 Loss:

Biodiversity loss is the decline in the number, genetic variability, variety of species, and biological communities in a given area. It is inclusive of the extinction of species. This loss in the variety of life can lead to a breakdown in the functioning of the ecosystem where the decline has happened. Drivers of biodiversity loss are pollution, invasive species, habitat destruction, over-exploitation, climate change etc.

Infrastructure, such as roads when built in forested areas, alter ecological conditions by cutting through natural habitats and consequently reduce populations of many wildlife species dependent on this ecosystem. Dams may divert water away from habitats, significantly reducing the marine species in the impacted water body. A change in the species can lead to an imbalance in the food chain, causing a breakdown of the ecosystem.

EI 1.1.2 Disturbance:

In ecology, a disturbance is a temporary and localized change in environmental conditions that causes a pronounced change in an ecosystem. A disturbance can also occur over a long period of time and can impact the biodiversity within an ecosystem. Ecological disturbance can, thus, be defined as an event that causes temporary and localized shifts in demographic rates of the associated biodiversity (Dornelas, 2010).

Infrastructure activities can cause a disturbance in the local ecosystem. For example, noise from the construction of infrastructure in general, or operations of transport infra such as airports, roads and trains, can have physiological and behavioural effects on wildlife. Noise pollution makes it difficult for animals to use sound for navigation, finding food, mating, and avoiding predators, affecting many animals’ ability to survive (Newport et al., 2014).

EI 1.1.3 Restoration:

Degraded ecosystems are often missing species, groups of species or even whole functional groups, such as top-level predators. Biodiversity restoration is the process of assisting in the recovery of habitats that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed; it focuses on establishing the ecological processes necessary to make terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems sustainable, resilient, and healthy under current and future conditions. Infrastructure companies can carry out or fund activities such as reforestation, coral rehabilitation, re-introduction of native plant and animal species to an ecosystem etc. For example, in 2018, Sydney Airport partnered with Conservation Volunteers Australia to revive a critical wildlife habitat area called the Rockdale Wetlands, close to a Sydney suburb (SYD, 2018).

EI 1.1.4 Conservation:

Biodiversity conservation is the practice of protecting and preserving the wealth and variety of biodiversity and maintaining the function of the natural ecosystems of a given region. Infrastructure companies can contribute to environmental conservation by avoiding, minimizing and mitigating impacts from construction and operational activities, or by implementing biodiversity management plans. Wildlife crossings are also an example of infrastructure that enables habitat conservation by connecting habitats and combating habitat fragmentation.

EI 1.1.5 Enhancement:

Biodiversity enhancement is the process of improving the organisms and habitats of a given region and increasing the biodiversity of a given area. For example, offshore wind farms can create refuges for benthic habitats, fish and marine mammals, giving life to a new ecosystem (Bennun et al.,2021).

EI 1.2 Oceans and freshwater

Water resources are natural sources of water that are useful for human activities. These include surface water, groundwater and frozen water. In this case, the water resources referred to are those that the infrastructure company withdraws water from, discharges water to or those that are in the vicinity of the asset.

EI 1.2.1 Pollution:

Water pollution occurs when harmful substances or contaminants (above a given concentration or pollutant load) are discharged or leached into water resources causing the degradation of the water quality of the given resource. For example, heavy metals accumulation in soils under the application of sewage sludge and effluent from wastewater treatment plants is a major environmental concern (Behbahaninia et al., 2010).

EI 1.2.2 Depletion:

Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. In this case, it refers to the depletion of water resources linked with excessive consumption and extraction.

EI 1.2.3 Diversion:

Diversion refers to the mass movement of water, temporarily or permanently, which can cause significant changes in the flow and water levels in a given water body.

EI 1.2.4 Preservation and protection:

Preservation of water resources includes all policies, strategies and activities to protect the quality, quantity and integrity of water resources.

EI 1.2.5 Restoration:

Restoring the quality, quantity and integrity of the water bodies that have been subject to pollution or depletion, such as cleaning up of rivers in case of accidental/deliberate discharge of sewage by sewage treatment facilities.

EI 1.3 Land:

Land resources refer to the geographic land (soil) and all the naturally occurring resources such as rocks, minerals and ores present under the surface of the land.

EI 1.3.1 Pollution:

Land pollution is the deposition of solid or liquid waste materials on land or underground in a manner that can contaminate the soil.

EI 1.3.2 Change in land use:

Land use change involves human-induced transforming of the landscape of a piece of land so it can be used for another purpose, as done in greenfield developments.

EI 1.3.3 Degradation:

Land degradation is the reduction in the quality of soils and land utility. It negatively affects food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services. Desertification is a form of land degradation by which fertile land becomes desert (WHO, 2020). In this case, it refers to the degradation of land resources of soil, rocks, minerals, ores etc. used by the infrastructure company. Research has found that over the years construction of roads and rail infrastructure has been one of the main causes of land degradation (European Commission, 2019).

EI 1.3.4 Preservation and protection:

Preservation of land resources includes all policies, strategies and activities to protect the quality, quantity and integrity of the soil and the resources under its surface, such as rocks, minerals and ores.

EI 1.3.5 Restoration:

The process of restoring the quality, quantity and integrity of the soil and the resources such as rocks, minerals and ores present under the surface of the land that has been subject to pollution or degradation.

EI 1.4 Atmosphere:

The atmosphere is a blanket of gases that surrounds the earth. It contains the air we breathe, protects the planet from harmful radiation, maintains the global water cycle and regulates global temperatures and the global climate.

EI 1.4.1 Air pollution:

Air pollution occurs in many forms but can generally be defined as gaseous and particulate contaminants present in the Earth's atmosphere. Sources of air pollution include the emission of pollutants into the air by infrastructure. Infrastructure assets such as wastewater treatment plants are associated with emitting volatile organic compounds, carcinogens, carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and particulate matter (Widiana et al., 2019)

EI 1.4.2 Air quality improvement:

Reducing the concentration of contaminants emitted from the activities of infrastructure assets, to maintain the pollutants below levels considered safe for biodiversity and public health.

SYD. (2018). Sydney airport partners with conservation volunteers Australia to revive Rockdale Wetlands. Available at: (Accessed on 21 January 2022).

Behbahaninia, A., Mirbagheri, S., & Nouri, J. (2010). Effects of sludge from wastewater treatment plants on heavy metals transport to soils and groundwater. Journal of Environmental Health Science & Engineering, 7(5), 401–406.

Bennun, L., van Bochove, J., Ng, C., Fletcher, C., Wilson, D., Phair, N., & Carbone, G. (2021). Mitigating biodiversity impacts associated with solar and wind energy development.

Dornelas, M. (2010). Disturbance and change in biodiversity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365(1558), 3719–3727.

European Commission. (2019). World atlas of desertification. Infrastructure expansion is a major cause of land degradation. Available at: [WAD | World Atlas of Desertification](WAD | World Atlas of Desertification) (Accessed on 21 July 2022).

Newport, J., Shorthouse, D. J., & Manning, A. D. (2014). The effects of light and noise from urban development on biodiversity: Implications for protected areas in Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration, 15(3), 204–214.

United Nations. (1992). The convention on biological diversity.

Widiana, D. R., Wang, Y.-F., You, S.-J., Yang, H.-H., Wang, L.-C., Tsai, J.-H., Chen, H.-M., et al. (2019). Air pollution profiles and health risk assessment of ambient volatile organic compounds above a municipal wastewater treatment plant, Taiwan. Aerosol and air quality research, 19(2), 375–382.

WHO. (2020). Climate change: Land degradation and desertification. Available at: Accessed on 06 June 2022).

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