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Biodiversity and ecosystem services

Biodiversity and ecosystem services – the direct and indirect benefits people obtain from the environment, such as food, water, shelter, clean air and cultural identity – are important for society, and we work to protect them wherever we operate.

Our approach recognizes factors such as the rarity of individual species, their roles in different ecosystems and habitats, their vulnerabilities and their cultural significance. As part of the expectations of Protect Tomorrow. Today., we strive to be a leader in safeguarding the ability of the environment to provide these ecosystem services. For our major Upstream projects, we identify and evaluate environmental, social and health risks and opportunities through the ESHIA process. Additionally, biodiversity and ecosystem services are taken into account during the EAA and EBP processes throughout the life of an asset.

Protecting biodiversity

We continually look for new tools and analytical methods to improve our understanding of local biodiversity conditions and ecosystem services in our areas of operation. In 2014, we continued our study of the ecosystem services in the Gulf of Mexico in collaboration with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. As part of this effort, we engaged local businesses, federal agencies, researchers and NGOs in an attempt to prioritize ecosystem services provided by the Gulf. Results of this study are currently being prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

  • Professor David Yoskowitz

    Endowed chair for socioeconomics at the Harte Research Institute and renowned ecosystem services expert
    "Understanding the value that stakeholders place on the services provided by the offshore environment is important to the scientific community, ocean industries, government entities and NGOs. ExxonMobil is a key partner in advancing this knowledge."

Several of our biodiversity experts also published a peer-reviewed article in 2014 that outlined an ecosystem services approach to marine environmental management. Using the deepwater Gulf of Mexico as a case study, our researchers developed a methodology, adaptable for use in a variety of environmental settings, that can be used for prioritizing monitoring efforts to protect the health of ecosystem services. For more information, read more on rapid prioritization of marine ecosystem services and ecosystem indicators.

ExxonMobil is also proud to support innovative research for improved biodiversity management. In 2014, we contributed approximately $5 million to organizations focused on biodiversity protection and land conservation. For example, ExxonMobil Research Qatar is collaborating with Qatar University and Texas A&M University at Galveston to study the dugong population – a marine mammal species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed as vulnerable to extinction – in Qatar’s coastal waters.

It is essential to both Qatar and ExxonMobil to increase our understanding of the marine environment, and we hope the data gathered in this study can be utilized by other academic, regulatory and research stakeholders in support of management and conservation plans for the dugong population.

Dr. Jennifer Dupont, research director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar

Working in protected areas

To ensure adequate plans are in place at our sites to manage elevated biodiversity or species risks, we periodically screen the locations of our major operating facilities against databases of the IUCN and World Protected Areas. We confirmed an estimated 20 percent of our major operating facilities are within five kilometers of designated environmentally protected areas. These data are also used when developing emergency response contingency plans that prioritize areas needing protection, as well as in environmental impact surveys during new or brownfield development.

We continue to collaborate with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to develop educational and outreach programs through the Corporate Lands for Learning (CLL) program. Currently, we have five CLL programs certified at or near our facilities, including at our Billings (Montana) Refinery, Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Complex, Clinton (New Jersey) Research Facility, Fife (United Kingdom) Ethylene Plant and Lentol Gardens in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. These programs help us promote environmental awareness, biodiversity and science initiatives in our workforce and local communities.

By the end of 2014, we actively managed 7,200 acres of land for the benefit of wildlife at 18 of our sites through 21 certified programs. Our newest WHC Wildlife at Work site is at our North Houston Campus, which features 195 acres of wildlife habitat. Surveys at the campus identified 343 ecologically valuable trees, of which 213 were preserved in place. Professional arborists moved the remaining trees to other locations within the campus and are providing observation and care to ensure their continued health. Ongoing monitoring programs on the campus focus on the presence of bird species and the detection and removal of invasive plant species.