In the past 12 to 14 of January, the University of Évora, in the framework of the LIFE LINES project, and the Infrastructure and Ecology Network Europe held the online event IENE International Conference, under the theme “LIFE LINES – Linear Infrastructure Networks with Ecological Solutions”. The local organising committee of the IENE 2020 had contributors from several institutions including the Mediterranean Institute for Agriculture, Environment and Development; REN; Infrastructures of Portugal; and the Municipalities of Montemor-o-Novo and Évora.
This was the first IENE International Conference entirely online and participants could attend it from home and working place, regardless of their location in the world. We had 293 confirmed attendees (from 354 registered) from 40 different countries representing the five continents. During three days, participants were able to assist to 115 full oral presentations, 36 lightning talks, 13 workshops and chat with 40 posters authors, representing studies and projects worldwide. The event counted with 50 thematic sessions, running in five parallel sessions mixing live and pre-recorded interventions.
The conference also accounted also with four prestigious invited speakers addressing different perspectives regarding the study and sustainability of Linear Infrastructures (LI). Niko Balkenhol presenting the usefulness of molecular approaches in assessing and quantifying the ecological impacts of LI. Francisco Moreira, revealing the secrets of the longtime utilization of very high tension powerlines by white storks. Fernanda Z. Teixeira exposing the challenges and opportunities for biodiversity of roads and railways worldwide, but particularly in the South America. Jakub Wejchert presenting the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the importance of EU Green Infrastructure for its implementation. .
The conference involved researchers, practitioners, LI operators and managers, NGO’s representatives, and policy makers, all agreeing that it is time to give back to nature because we have already taken too much from it. No net biodiversity loss or even biodiversity gain solutions are the only acceptable strategies for new infrastructure development.
In IENE 2020 the concept of transportation infrastructure was broaden from the largely acknowledge road, highway and railway networks to other LI developed for the distribution and transportation of energy, water, oil, gas, etc. Successes and failures were shared; and innovative techniques, devices and strategies were proposed as ecological solutions to reduce the impacts of new and already existing LI networks.
As a final remark we concluded that no action is too small to support biodiversity neither will be too big to invert its decline. From the simplest and cheapest solutions in adapting already existing structures to highly sophisticated new devices and tools that use artificial intelligence, we must keep in mind that we have to act to preserve and restore our natural assets, as part of our heritage and part of our legacy. The main message, as assumed in IENE 2020 Declaration, is that we need to work together to accelerate ecological transition towards a sustainable Earth with a human population living within the planet ecological boundaries.