Innovative Solutions for Linear Infrastructure Impact Assessment, Mitigation and Monitoring

We are in a new era where innovative techniques and devices are becoming increasingly available to allow for a better protection and monitoring of wildlife. Drones, robots and artificial intelligence are facilitating easier and automatic solutions. Available large data sets associated with new modelling techniques, increasingly accessible higher resolution remote sensing data and the widespread use of genetics are helping us to understand faster than ever the interactions between linear infrastructures and biodiversity. We therefore possess today powerful tools that can be used to improve planning including better integration of ecological mitigation across different types of infrastructures. The challenges and opportunities related to innovative solutions and their integration will be one of the main themes of the Conference.

Challenges and Opportunities for Habitats Related to Linear Infrastructures

Vegetated areas related to linear infrastructures (e.g. road verges) can be important refuge habitats for flora and small fauna, and for the latter particularly when crossing inhospitable and degraded areas. Due to their shape and extent, these habitats can equally play an important role as linkage areas, holding a high potential to be the backbone of the European Green Infrastructure. However, a roll-out of these habitats as corridors and biodiversity refuges is challenging as they cab attract animals in areas with increased mortality risks. 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 addressed. We aim to contribute to the production of best practice guidelines on selecting and managing these areas for biodiversity conservation.

Linear Infrastructure Ecology

Non-natural mortality associated with road/railways kills, bird electrocution, collision with power lines, and barrier effects as well as their impact on population viability are key issues for enhancing efficient mitigation. Models to estimate 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 for global mitigation solutions across all types of infrastructures is an emergent issue for which a comprehensive strategy should be developed. The establishment of research networks, guideline production and practitioner training facilitate the dissemination of best practices related to mitigation and monitoring. In addition, formal collaborations and standardisation of data collection and procedures could further improve our knowledge and practice. These issues will be addressed in detail in the sessions dedicated to Linear Infrastructure Ecology.

Citizen Science and the Involvement of Civil Society

The worldwide increasing adoption of smartphones can provide an immense opportunity for gathering environmental and biodiversity data. While citizens have the ability to create data at their fingertips, retrieving, validating and using this data is still a matter of intense debate. The civil society is becoming increasingly involved in environmental and conservation debates designing the agenda of tomorrow in implementing sustainable infrastructures. Their voices should be supported. The need for investment to mitigate impacts, while less evident (invasive dispersion, barriers effects, small fauna kills, etc.) is underrated and strategic communication plans need to be developed to reverse this situation.

Financing Linear Infrastructures

In the next decade, many future transportation and other linear infrastructures developments are planned to take place in developing countries with a rich biodiversity. Ensuring these infrastructure developments follow a sustainable path is paramount for global wildlife conservation and should represent a funding availability criterion. When adapting already existing linear infrastructures, "biodiversity friendly" should equally be a precondition for investment. These questions will draw the framework for the Conference sessions on infrastructure financing.

Legislation and Policy

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.

Replicating Ecological Solutions in Linear Infrastructure Networks (LIFE LINES Final Seminar)

This topic will be the main theme of the LIFE LINES project final seminar, which is integrated in the IENE 2020 International Conference. Most of the Linear Infrastructures networks worldwide were built prior to the dissemination and mandatory implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment policies. Therefore, 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.