Adequacy of terrestrial fauna surveys for the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments in the mining industry of Western Australia
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Summary The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority has indicated that terrestrial fauna surveys undertaken for the purpose of preparing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are providing inadequate information for decision-makers to assess development impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. This study examined the current standard of terrestrial vertebrate fauna surveys undertaken as the basis for preparing an EIA. In the absence of a protocol to assess current standards of terrestrial fauna surveys, ‘best practice’ was defined and quantified through consultation with an ‘expert panel’. Data from fauna surveys contained in 15 recent EIA reports from the Goldfields region of Western Australia were critically examined to determine the extent of compliance with ‘best practice’. The majority of surveys performed poorly against the established criteria. A few reports addressed many of the issues comprehensively, however, at least 50% failed to mention or adequately address a high proportion of criteria considered essential, including searches of government databases, detection of rare/endangered fauna and multiseasonal sampling. All reports failed to employ sufficient trapping effort at both the biotope and landscape scales to adequately assess terrestrial vertebrate fauna biodiversity. These results indicate the need to redress minimum standards for terrestrial fauna surveys in order to meet the expectations of the EIA process.