Environmental sensitivity is a critical consideration in natural resource management. In the context of the legislative requirements for impact assessment, environmental sensitivity (or vulnerability) assessments present a framework for systematically determining the potential for significant adverse impacts.
This is reflected in the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive’s requirement to take account of the vulnerability of the area likely to be affected when identifying and characterising potential impacts (EC, 2001, Annex II, 2), as well as in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive’s cautioning on the potential for significant effects when proposing developments in environmentally sensitive locations (EC, 2014, Article 28).
Assessing environmental sensitivity provides further insight into the baseline environment by contributing an additional dimension to the purely technical consideration of environmental characteristics. It can serve as an empirical and systematic approach, and as a more objective critical foundation to promote evidence-based impact assessment and environmental planning.