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Road Ecology for Environmental Assessment
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Land and Water Resources Engineering. (Environmental Management and Assessment)
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Transport infrastructure is closely linked to several politically relevant sustainability issues, and since 1985 a formalized environmental assessment process is linked to planning and construction of new roads and railways in the EU (EU directives 85/337/EEC and 2001/42). The aim of the environmental assessment process is to think in advance; to identify, predict and evaluate significant environmental changes resulting from a proposed activity, in order to adjust the proposed activity accordingly and to avoid unnecessary and unexpected consequences. Biodiversity is a component of sustainable development that is in many ways affected by road and railway construction, but which has been challenging to fully account for within the environmental assessment process. This thesis presents four studies on the role of biodiversity in environmental assessment of road and railway plans and projects. Paper I presents the state of the art of road and railway impacts on ecological patterns and processes sustaining biodiversity, and reviews the treatment of biodiversity in a selection of environmental assessment reports from Sweden and the UK. Paper II presents a quantitative assessment of the impact of the Swedish road network on birds and mammals, and how fragmentation and road disturbance might affect a selection of ecological profiles. Paper III demonstrates how scientific models, data and knowledge can be mobilized for the design and evaluation of railway corridors, and Paper IV analyses how habitat connectivity, as a prerequisite of genetic exchange, relates to landscape composition and size and number of fauna passages. The results from Paper I show that road and railway impacts on biodiversity need to be addressed at every level of planning; from corridor alignment in the landscape to utilization and maintenance. The review of environmental assessment reports shows that the treatment of biodiversity in environmental assessment has improved over the years, but that problems with habitat fragmentation, connectivity and the spatial delimitation of the impact assessment study area remain. The results from Paper II identify natural grasslands and southern broadleaved forest, prioritized habitat types important for biodiversity, to most likely be highly affected by road impacts, and suggest road disturbance to have a high impact on overall habitat availability. The results from Paper III demonstrate how the landscape specific distribution of ecological and geological resources can be accounted for in railway corridor design, and potentially lead to more resource efficient outcomes with less impact on ecological processes. The results from Paper IV indicate that the several small fauna passages would increase connectivity more across a barrier than the construction of a single large. Effective barrier mitigation will also depend on the selection of focal species and the understanding of how the focal species perceive the landscape in terms of resistance to movement. This thesis demonstrates how quantitative assessment can benefit biodiversity impact analysis and address issues such as habitat connectivity and fragmentation, which have been difficult to account for in environmental assessment. It is recommended that biodiversity impact analysis moves towards an increasing use of quantitative methods and tools for prediction, evaluation and sensitivity analysis. Future challenges include verification and calibration of relevant spatial ecological models, and further integration of road ecology knowledge into road and railway planning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , xii, 51 p.
Series
TRITA-LWR. PHD, ISSN 1650-8602 ; 2015:06
Keyword [en]
Roads, Railways, Biodiversity, Environmental Assessment, GIS, Decision Support
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Land and Water Resources Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176399ISBN: 978-91-7595-746-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-176399DiVA: diva2:866686
Public defence
2015-11-25, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
GESP
Funder
Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, 242-2009-1285
Note

QC 20151103

Available from: 2015-11-03 Created: 2015-11-03 Last updated: 2015-11-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Road Ecology in Environmental Impact Assessment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Road Ecology in Environmental Impact Assessment
2014 (English)In: Environmental impact assessment review, ISSN 0195-9255, E-ISSN 1873-6432, Vol. 48, 10-19 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transport infrastructure has a wide array of effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and road and railway networks are increasingly being associated with a loss of biodiversity worldwide. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) are two legal frameworks that concern physical planning, with the potential to identify, predict, mitigate and/or compensate transport infrastructure effects with negative impacts on biodiversity. The aim of this study was to review the treatment of ecological impacts in environmental assessment of transport infrastructure plans and projects. A literature review on the topic of EIA, SEA, biodiversity and transport infrastructure was conducted, and 17 problem categories on the treatment of biodiversity were formulated by means of a content analysis. A review of environmental impact statements and environmental reports (EIS/ER) produced between 2005 and 2013 in Sweden and the UK was then conducted using the list of problems as a checklist The results show that the treatment of ecological impacts has improved substantially over the years, but that some impacts remain problematic; the treatment of fragmentation, the absence of quantitative analysis and that the impact assessment study area was in general delimited without consideration for the scales of ecological processes. Actions to improve the treatment of ecological impacts could include improved guidelines for spatial and temporal delimitation, and the establishment of a quantitative framework including tools, methods and threshold values. Additionally, capacity building and further method development of EIA and SEA friendly spatial ecological models can aid in clarifying the costs as well as the benefits in development/biodiversity tradeoffs.

National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-123563 (URN)10.1016/j.eiar.2014.04.002 (DOI)000340141900002 ()2-s2.0-84899966986 (Scopus ID)
Funder
FormasStandUp
Note

QC 20140922

Available from: 2013-06-12 Created: 2013-06-12 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. A spatial ecological assessment of fragmentation and disturbance effects of the Swedish road network
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A spatial ecological assessment of fragmentation and disturbance effects of the Swedish road network
2015 (English)In: Landscape and Urban Planning, ISSN 0169-2046, E-ISSN 1872-6062, Vol. 134, 53-65 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transportation infrastructure has a wide range of effects on ecological processes, which result in both positive and negative impacts for biodiversity. However, the treatment of biodiversity in planning and environmental assessment have been criticized, especially regarding habitat loss and fragmentation effects, the low use of quantitative methods and that of assessments being descriptive rather than analytical and predictive. The aim of this study was to assess the impacts of the Swedish road network by spatial modelling of road effects, to explore potential impacts of fragmentation and disturbance effects of roads on habitat networks for selected ecological profiles, and to discuss the utility of applying quantitative methods for environmental assessment purposes. Habitat and landcover data was used for creating habitat networks for six ecological profiles. Fragmentation and disturbance effects were modelled in GIS and FRAGSTATS was used to quantify ecologically important landscape metrics on habitat amount and connectivity. The results showed that natural grasslands and southern broadleaved forest were substantially more exposed to road effects in Sweden, compared to old coniferous and trivial broadleaved forest. Furthermore, habitat loss was a main consequence of road effects, and forest species with high area demands were most prone to be adversely impacted. Suggestions on method development in order to increase the quality of the analysis methods for environmental assessment are discussed. The potential is seen as high for use of quantitative ecological methods to generate baseline environmental information as well as coarse predictions on likely consequences of development options, useful for environmental assessment.

Keyword
Transport infrastructure, Road ecology, Biodiversity, Ecological profiles, Environmental assessment, Road effect zones
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-123565 (URN)10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.10.009 (DOI)000347511400006 ()2-s2.0-84908701351 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 242-2009-1285StandUp
Note

QC 20150209

Available from: 2013-06-12 Created: 2013-06-12 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
3. Design and evaluation of railway corridors based on spatial ecological and geological criteria
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Design and evaluation of railway corridors based on spatial ecological and geological criteria
Show others...
2016 (English)In: Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, ISSN 1361-9209, E-ISSN 1879-2340, Vol. 46, 207-228 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transport infrastructure is closely linked to several sustainability issues of main policy relevance, and significant impacts on biodiversity as well as resource use and construction costs relate to the corridor design and location in the landscape. The aim of this study was to develop methods for railway corridor planning, in which corridor design and location would be based on important ecological and geological sustainability criteria. The method, an MCA framework including both spatial and non-spatial MCA, was demonstrated on a railway planning proposition in an urbanising area north of Stockholm, Sweden. Alternative spatial alignments for 6 railway corridors were derived based on criteria representing biodiversity, resource efficiency and costs, developed from ecological and geological knowledge, data and models. The method identified a study area specific positive synergy between ecological and geological sustainability criteria. The evaluation part of the methodology could furthermore identify uncertainties in the input data and assumptions and conflicts between ecological criteria. In order to arrive at a well-informed decision support system, the criteria as well as the decision rules employed could be further elaborated. Other relevant sustainability issues would also need to be integrated, such as cultural landscapes, recreation, and other ecosystem services. Still, arriving at a corridor design informed by the ecological and geological conditions in the planned area, as demonstrated by this study, could improve the sustainability performance of transport infrastructure planning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016
Keyword
MCA, Planning, Decision support, Biodiversity, EIA, SEA
National Category
Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology
Research subject
Land and Water Resources Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176397 (URN)10.1016/j.trd.2016.03.012 (DOI)000377829900016 ()2-s2.0-84962791640 (Scopus ID)
Projects
GESP
Funder
Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, 242-2009-1285StandUp
Note

QC 20160718

Available from: 2015-11-03 Created: 2015-11-03 Last updated: 2017-07-23Bibliographically approved
4. The effect of fauna passages and landscape characteristics on barrier mitigation success
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The effect of fauna passages and landscape characteristics on barrier mitigation success
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Transport infrastructure can impose significant barriers to movements to many, if not most terrestrial animals. Barrier effects can lead to increased isolation of wildlife populations, which in turn might have demographic effects and even increase genetic differentiation between neighbouring populations. This study attempted to clarify the role of fauna passages and generic landscape patterns for connectivity in fragmented landscapes, and to improve the theoretical basis for future experimental approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of barrier mitigation strategies. Specifically, the issue of whether it would be more effective to construct a single large rather than several small crossing structures (SLOSS) was addressed by this study. Three hypotheses were formulated on the relationship between habitat connectivity, as a prerequisite for genetic exchange, and habitat aggregation and contrast between habitat types. Random landscapes with different combinations of aggregation, contrast and number and size of fauna passages were created in a GIS. Connectivity was then quantified as a function of movement resistance using circuit theory and related methods, and measurements from the random landscapes were statistically analysed. The results indicate that in any landscape, it would be more effective to construct several small fauna passages instead of a single large one to mitigate the effect of a barrier. The level of aggregation appeared to have no influence per se on connectivity, and increasing the level of contrast increased the variance in the results. Results indicate that the effectiveness of a fauna passage will to a large extent rely on the location of a fauna passage relative to how the mitigation target species perceive the landscape in terms of contrast between different habitat types. A predefined interval between fauna passages could therefore result in highly ineffective mitigation, in a situation where a fauna passage would be located in habitat perceived as of high resistance. It is recommended that barrier effect mitigation strategies focus on the location and design of several small fauna passages rather than a single large one. Future research should focus on the development of dispersal and movement models for a set focal species that perceive a minimum degree of contrast between habitat types.

Keyword
Fauna passages, Barrier effects, Mitigation, SLOSS, Transport Infrastructure
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Land and Water Resources Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176395 (URN)
Projects
GESP
Funder
Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, 242-2009-1285
Available from: 2015-11-03 Created: 2015-11-03 Last updated: 2015-11-03Bibliographically approved

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Output format
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