As the demand for transport and other infrastructure increases on a global scale, the loss to biodiversity is also accelerating. How do we resolve this conflict between economic development and nature conservation? A recent paper at WRC in Prague offers a way forward.
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When we think of mobility, we generally only think about it in the context of human mobility. However, with a greater focus on biodiversity in recent decades, the movement of animal species and the impact of human mobility on ecosystems are under the microscope.
The global demand for Transport and other Linear Infrastructure (TLI) – which includes roads, rail, powerlines, pipelines, fences and waterways – has increased rapidly over the last two decades. This means that developing transportation networks in a sustainable way has emerged as one of the primary challenges for governments all over the world.
Roads are a major cause of disruption in natural ecosystems, reducing the functionality of wildlife corridors and contributing to the global decline in biodiversity. A paper at the recent World Road Congress in Prague – Key concepts, principles & stakeholders of the Global Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Transport and other Linear Infrastructure – highlighted how this results in edge effects (changes in population or community structures that occur at the boundary of two or more habitats), barrier effects for wildlife, as well as consequences for human safety, in the event of animal-vehicle collisions (AVC).
The paper also pointed to a Global Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Transport and other Linear Infrastructure, which has been developed by an international coalition of professionals and organisations to respond to these newly identified challenges. The strategy is designed to be a roadmap for improving human and wildlife safety, ecological connectivity, biodiversity loss and resilient TLI, as we try to meet the aims of the Paris climate change agreement.
However, if we’re serious about sustainability being at the heart of transportation development in the 21st century, it must be based on based on:
The global strategy explains how to make biodiversity and ecological connectivity a natural part of all TLI development, establishing three central concepts:
The strategy also outlines that the sustainability of transport infrastructure has multiple level and multiple synergies, which include both engineering and environmental approaches and policies. This highlights the need for multidisciplinary and cross-sector approaches to be implemented.
For this roadmap for sustainable TLI development to be implemented, a framework of initiatives needs to be undertaken at an international level, that subsequently filter down to a local level. At the same time, it’s imperative that experience and knowledge, gained at local levels, is then fed back from operation to those at international levels responsible for global thinking and policymaking.
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