Simulating biodiversity offsetting

Biodiversity, nature conservation and biodiversity offsetting can be simulated in a game in many different ways. We have chosen to simulate how biodiversity offsetting is connected to the practices, conflicts and dynamics of land-use planning, nature conservation, development and use of natural resources. The game presents the main mechanics of offsetting.

Offsetting often only targets protected species, because surveying, evaluating and offsetting all the biodiversity in an area is  impossible in practice. In the game, when a protected species is impacted by a project, it needs to be offset by restoring another, similar habitat. This can be conducted either during the projects (offsetting by demand) or before the projects when habitats are restored and offsetting units are sold afterwards (offsetting by offer, also called offsetting banks). In both cases, the construction permit needs to be granted by the administration after conducting species surveys and conservationists can always conduct additional surveys to contest existing ones. Offsetting respects the mitigation hierarchy and is only conducted for damage that is left after the majority of impacts to the ecosystem have been first avoided or at least reduced. The game also introduces different principles of organising the implementation of offsetting: different offsetting ratios for species, offsetting with similar (like-for-like) or non-similar (out-of-like) habitat, voluntary offsetting, and mandatory offsetting for all kinds of nature, including ordinary nature with no protected species.

In addition, our game presents different controversies related to the implementation of offsetting. Main issues include: land
scarcity and difficulty to find areas suitable for offsetting, uncertainty of the restoration process, corruption and destruction of protected species without offsetting, difficulty of guaranteeing the success of offsetting measures over time, and the absence of no-net-loss of biodiversity even if that is the aim of offsetting. Conservationists or local people might oppose development projects, do media campaigns, protests or gather in protest camps. Our game introduces players to the fundamental dilemma surrounding offsetting: is it better to collaborate, and offset the damages of the projects which would have probably been authorised anyway, even without any offsetting measures? Or is it better oppose projects in all stages because offsetting legitimises projects and gives them a right to destroy nature?

(The text is from the game rulebook)

Watch the tutorial video of game rules !