Conservation Gains, Trains and Automobiles
Last week I gave a presentation at the Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation Conference in Coffs Harbour. I talked about some of our recent and ongoing work on landscape-scale planning for road and linear infrastructure network design and mitigation (see a copy of my slides here). One of the main points I tried to make in my talk is that I think we need to take more of a landscape-scale approach to road ecology and be explicit about the costs and benefits of alternative planning and mitigation measures for biodiversity.
Overall the conference was excellent and my thoughts about a landscape-scale focus were echoed by a number of speakers throughout the two days. There was a particularly interesting talk by John Altringham from the University of Leeds on the population-level effects of roads on bats. In the past few decades we have come a long way in terms of our understanding of road ecology and it was nice to see this reflected in the talks at the conference. However, it was disappointing to see that, in general, environmental impact assessments for roads are still largely focussed on the assessment of site-level impacts, rather than the broader impacts across landscapes. As such, I think the assessment of the impacts of roads during the development process is a key area that we need to improve on and one in which the discipline of road ecology can have an important influence on. In particular, we need to move towards a more strategic approach to road network design and mitigation that considers the whole landscape and cumulative impacts on the environment. The alternative is the gradual erosion of environmental values as road networks increase in size and death by a thousand cuts for many species and their habitats.