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Tackling Biodiversity Issues

Biodiversity or biological diversity is the variety of life on Earth. Threats that cause biodiversity loss include but are not limited to: habitat loss and destruction, changes in ecosystems, introduction of non-native species, over exploitation, human-generated pollution and contamination as well as global climate change. Species are heading towards extinction at the fastest rate known in geological history. Most of these extinctions are tied to human activity. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed, that of the over 79,000 “Red List” species (global list of endangered species) evaluated, an estimate of 24,000 species is regarded as threatened in 2016!

The picture shows a European ground squirrel classified as a vulnerable species which is endemic to OMV´s core countries Austria and Romania. Ground squirrel populations are decreasing - the species is already regionally extinct in parts of Croatia and Germany.

According to IOGP (International Association of Oil & Gas Producers), the oil and gas industry depends on biodiversity and ecosystem services, but also creates impacts on it. Ecosystem services are benefits people obtain from nature such as natural resources or regulating services (e.g. water and air quality). An example for the dependency is the use of water, natural materials and relying on natural waste assimilation and flood protection functions. Potential biodiversity impacts can be grouped into primary and secondary impacts. Primary impacts arise from operation within an O&G activity lifecycle. An example is deforestation, which may lead to immediate loss of habitat and subsequently long-term soil erosion. Secondary impacts are triggered by operations but may occur outside the time and geographic boundaries of a project. Examples for secondary impacts are loss of ground-cover vegetation, soil degradation and movement and hence impacts on water quality and pressure on fish species. 

In OMV biodiversity assessments should be done within Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) which also evaluate biodiversity impacts as part of environmental impacts. Detailed biodiversity assessments are conducted as required by the regulating authorities. For operations in more sensitive areas, OMV has to comply with more stringent regulations. This was for example the case for a seismic survey in Mistelbach, Austria, which was conducted in a designated Natura 2000 protected area. In this case it was decided that all activities have to be carried out outside the bird nesting season and out of intensive vegetation.

In 2014, first detailed biodiversity screenings were conducted by OMV Corporate Environmental Management to identify overlaps between OMV operational areas, protected areas and habitats of endangered species. This base data is important to identify high-risk areas and to define necessary steps for managing potential biodiversity issues within OMV.