We are in a new era where innovative techniques and devices are increasingly available to protect and monitor wildlife. Drones, robots and artificial intelligence are potentiating easier and automatic solutions. Big data sets already available, associated with new modelling techniques, increasingly accessible higher resolution remote sending data and the widespread use of genetics are helping us to understand faster than ever the interactions between linear infrastructures and biodiversity. Thus, we have now powerful tools that can be used to improve planning including better integration of ecological mitigation across different types of infrastructures. The challenges and opportunities posed by this innovation and the need for integration will be updated and widely discussed.
Vegetated areas related to linear infrastructures (e.g. road verges) may be important refuge habitats for flora and small fauna, particularly when crossing inhospitable and degraded areas. Due to their shape and extension these habitats may also have an important role as linkage areas, holding a high potential to be the backbone of the European Green Infrastructure. However, wide spreading the use these habitats as corridors or biodiversity refuges is challenging because we may be attracting animals for areas with increased mortality risk. Moreover, in transportation infrastructures these areas are particularly susceptible for invasive species establishment and dissemination. Thus, where and how to use habitats related to Linear Infrastructures for conservation purposes and how to make them resilient to climate change are important questions that need to be discussed. We aim to contribute to the production of best practice guidelines about how to select and manage these areas for biodiversity conservation.
Non-natural mortality associate with road/railways kills, bird electrocution and collision with powerlines, barrier effect of Linear Infrastructures and their effects on population viability are key issues for enhancing efficient mitigation. Models for estimating mortality including detectability and carcass persistence, allowing for more realistic estimates, are increasingly used. Connectivity modelling and genetic analysis are powerful tools to better address barrier effects and may be of great help in the definition of global defragmentation programs. The spreading of energy infrastructures, including new renewable energy sources and the need of global mitigation solutions across all types of infrastructures is an emergent issue for which strategies should be defined. Research Networks, the production of guidelines and training of practitioners are rapidly promoting the dissemination of best practices in mitigation and monitoring, but formal collaborations and standardization of data collection and procedures could improve even more our knowledge and practice. All these issues will be addressed and deeply discussed in the sessions dedicated to Linear Infrastructure Ecology.
The ever more generalized use of smartphones may be a huge source of new environmental and biodiversity data, gathered by the citizens, but how to get, validate and use these data is still a matter of intense debate. Also, civil society is increasingly interested in environmental and conservation issues and many citizens, particularly stakeholders, want their inputs to be considered in the implementation of sustainable infrastructures, but they feel they are poorly heard. On the other side, the need for investment to mitigate impacts less perceived by people (invasive dispersion, barriers effects, small fauna kills, etc.) is still often questioned and strategic communication plans need to be developed to reverse this situation.
The investment in building transportation and other linear infrastructures in the next decades is predicted to happen in developing countries where a richer biodiversity is still in place. Ensuring sustainability of new infrastructures is a critical issue for global wildlife conservation and should be a mandatory demand for financing them. The same applies when adapting already existing linear infrastructures worldwide, for which being “biodiversity friendly” should be a precondition to invest on them. This will be the basic framework for sessions devoted to financing.
In many countries the sustainability goals are progressively being integrated in all sectors of activity. Nevertheless, the effective implementation of policies targeting the achievement of this goal is still in its infancy. No net loss politics and compensatory schemes are two major strategies used to prevent biodiversity decline. However, many questions remain about how to effectively evaluate biodiversity losses and gains, including which indicators should be used and how to successfully include them in the legislation. Also, new challenges are posed to Linear Infrastructures designers and managers to cope with the COP 15 and European and CBD guidelines concerning biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. These and other issues will be the focus of sessions dedicated to this theme.
This topic will be the main theme of the final seminar of the LIFE LINES project, which is integrated in the IENE 2020 Conference. Most of the Linear Infrastructures networks worldwide were built prior to the dissemination and mandatory implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment policies. Thus, many of these infrastructures are not prepared to couple with biodiversity conservation issues and need to be adapted. Very often simple and inexpensive solutions can be used to increase environmental performance of old infrastructures. We will discuss successes and failures of actions/adaptations often implemented to reduce the ecological impacts of Linear Infrastructures and strategies to promote a widespread dissemination of solutions which proved to be successful.