The habitats created or emerged in connection with roads, railroads and other man-made environments, can be important from a species conservation standpoint. This concerns a number of habitats types that are otherwise rare or declining, such as managed grasslands, ponds, bare soil, and avenues.
Pilot studies and surveys have shown that infrastructure habitats replace or supplement habitats in the agricultural landscape, such as hay meadows and pastures. TRIEKOL’s research on infrastructure habitats highlight the positive potential for both endangered and common species in road and railroad areas, and develop goals and strategies for the optimal management of the infrastructure habitats.
Infrastructure habitats cover large areas and exists in most parts of the country. In addition there is an extensive organization to establish and maintain the infrastructure areal component, ie actual roads, railroad lines etc. Accordingly, the infrastructure habitats have a great potential to contribute significantly to the conservation of biodiversity.
However, roads and railroads are conservation areas with restrictions – biodiversity is of course not the main purpose of infrastructure. Also a significant contribution to the preservation of biodiversity can not be taken for granted. In some habitats, the management needs to be improved. In others, present management is good but there is no long-term guarantee of habitat quality because the biological values are not recognized. Some habitats may indeed have values, but not high enough to justify any special efforts. If infrastructure habitats are to become and remain important for the conservation of biodiversity, it is crucial that their importance is assessed so that maintenance operations can be optimized. Management practices must be developed that help biodiversity, while still being practical and economically feasible.
Roadsides have become an important refuge for many endangered species from the traditional agricultural landscape, when hayfields and pastures are abandoned and overgrown or replaced by plantations. Photo: Roger Svensson.
The research in TRIEKOL aims at:
- describing the ecological potential, in order to assess the contexts in which infrastructure habitats are of greatest benefit vs. have no significant benefits. We point out species, habitats and areas where the Swedish transport administation have a particular responsibility, and access criteria for identifying valuable streches of roads and railroads. This means that the infrastructure habitats are put in a wider conservation context, for example by comparison with habitats in the surrounding landscape, with landscape history, etc.
- if possible, finding ecological thresholds, for example levels in habitat quality that must be reached to be relevant for conservation, and for some aspect of biodiversity analyse how much infrastructure habitats can contribute to conservation.
- finding out the practical-economic potential in order to identify the situations where construction and maintenance of infrastructure habitats may have the largest contribution, and conversely, will not be able to contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation.
- developing a toolbox of different measures to be used in various situations in construction and maintenance. The toolbox can be supplemented as new methods are developed.
- initiating new efforts, and when necessary improving ongoing efforts, for the conservation of biodiversity in construction and maintenance.
- developing proposals for monitoring schemes and, if necessary, initiate long-term trials.
- highlighting and initiating different forms of collaboration between stakeholders regarding the management of infrastructure habitats.
- finding ways to expose the present values and future potentials of infrastructure habitats.
Jörgen Wissman (Swedish Biodiversity Centre, SLU)
Tel: + 46 18 67 22 25