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Habitat fragmentation due to infrastructure

  • Author(s): Bekker, Hans
  • Iuell, Bjørn
  • et al.
Abstract

Habitat fragmentation, the splitting of natural habitats and ecosystems into smaller and more isolated patches, is recognised as one of the most important global threats to the conservation of biological diversity. Habitat fragmentation is mainly a result of changes in land use, but a major impact also results from the barrier effect caused by the construction and use of linear infrastructure of transportation systems. This problem has been recognised all over Europe, but the impact differs from country to country. The project COST1 341 Habitat fragmentation Due to Transportation Infrastructure started in 1998, and 16 European countries and one NGO (European Centre for Nature Conservation) have been officially involved in the initiative. The main objectives of the action are: • To promote a safe and sustainable pan-European transport infrastructure through recommending measures and planning procedures in order to conserve biodiversity and reduce vehicular accidents and fauna casualties • To increase the awareness of the problem • To offer practical solutions and to exchange knowledge and expertise through workshops and presentations • To bring together the different groups involved The first main product of the project is a European Review on habitat fragmentation on a European level, based on state-of-the-art-reports from the participating countries. The project found a strong awareness of the problem throughout Europe and that a diversity of approaches to counteract and solutions have been tested. However, there is still a need for a systematic approach, retrofitting existing infrastructure where necessary, and integrating concerns on fragmentation in the planning of new ones. And frequently asked questions are: ‘How do we do it?’ ‘How many passages are necessary?’ ‘When is the problem solved?’ and ‘Can it be cheaper?’ The conclusions and recommendations of the review will be presented. The second important outcome of the project is the handbook Wildlife and traffic - A European handbook for identifying conflicts and designing solutions. This is a solution-oriented handbook, based upon the accumulated knowledge of a broad range of experts from the participating countries and from numerous international contacts. It gives practical guidance to the various actors involved in the planning, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructures. The barrier and fragmentation effects of infrastructure can be minimised during several phases of development and use, and often avoided if considered in the early phases of planning. It shows as well different solutions for the same problem in different countries. The handbook takes the reader through all the different phases, from the first steps of strategic planning, through the integration of roads in the landscape, the use of mitigation measures such as over- and underpasses for different animals, the developing field of compensatory measures, and to the use of different methods for monitoring and evaluating the chosen solutions. This paper presents the major findings of the European Review and an overview of the solutions recommended in the handbook. The handbook will be published late 2003. The authors have been involved in coordinating the project and in writing the contents of the handbook. IENE (Infra Eco Network Europe), a network of experts and authorities within the field of habitat fragmentation caused by construction and use of linear transportation infrastructure, was the applicant of COST 341. IENE is the framework in which the dissemination takes place. The results of COST Action 341 will be presented in Brussels, Belgium, 13 – 15 November 2003. See: www.iene.info Cost 341: http://www.cordis.lu/cost-transport/src/cost-341.htm

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