Counterintuitive proposals for trans-boundary ecological compensation under ‘no net loss’ biodiversity policy

No net loss’ (NNL) policies involve quantifying biodiversity impacts associated with economic development, and implementing commensurate conservation gains to balance losses. Local stakeholders are often affected by NNL biodiversity trades. But to what extent are NNL principles intuitive to stakeholders when they are not experts?We surveyed 691 students with limited or no knowledge of NNL policy across three countries, eliciting percep-tions of what constitutes suf?cient ecological compensation for forest habitat losses from infrastructure development. NNL policies assume that biodiversity compensation should be: close to development impacts; greater than losses; smaller, given a background trend of biodiversity decline; and, smaller when gains have co-bene?ts for biodiversity. However, survey participant proposals violated all four principles. Participants proposed substantial forest compensation abroad, did not always require commensurate compensation within their own country, and required more forest creation if background trends were for habitat decline or if forest creation had fauna co-bene?ts. Our ?ndings suggest that, under certain circumstances, international biodiversity trades could deserve consider-ation. The ?ndings also support proposals to incorporate social considerations into compensation ratios for NNL. Wherever the rationale underlying NNL is discovered to be counterintuitive insofar as relevant stakeholders are concerned, careful communication of policy intentions is required.