About this Research Topic
Transportation and infrastructure are significant drivers of the global loss of biodiversity. Their impact on nature is increasingly recognized and there is ample evidence for the negative effects of traffic and transportation facilities on nature. Even though infrastructures such as roads, railroads, canals or energy networks may occupy but a small proportion of an area, they affect entire landscapes, kill millions of wild animals, disintegrate populations, and pollute and disturb adjacent ecosystems and entail complex cumulative effects and secondary development and exploitation of nature. This is especially true when new infrastructures are built through formerly unfragmented natural habitats, but applies likewise to existing networks in already highly fragmented urban and peri-urban environments.
Given proper planning, there are nevertheless means to minimize the pressure on the environment, preserve ecosystem services, and, to some degree, even improve ecological conditions. De-fragmentation plans for nature in urban centers, green bridges connecting city parks with peri-urban forests, or road verge management providing refuges for insect fauna in agricultural landscapes illustrate the potential of adopted mitigation strategies. Yet, there are still gaps in knowledge about the functionality and efficacy of the measures that can be applied. How much mitigation is needed to maintain biodiversity at a desirable level? Technical innovations and new mitigation concepts may be promising, but need to be evaluated and tested. Also, the interplay between the transport sector and other sectors of society must be enhanced to safeguard mitigation efforts on long-term basis. Public consultation, knowledge transfer, and citizen-involvement are therefore just as essential as are legal and policy frameworks, ecological knowledge and technical mitigation tools.
This calls for broad collaboration in research and practice, for interdisciplinary exchange, for the harmonizing of standards and international guidelines. To achieve these goals, communities of practice have evolved over the past decades and regular international conferences are held in Europe (Infra Eco Network Europe), in the USA (International Conference on Ecology and Transportation), in more recently in Australasia (ANET) and Brazil. They provide important platforms for ecologists, engineers, planners and stakeholders to present new knowledge and plans, discuss problems, exchange experiences and find solutions.
With this Research Topic on Ecology & Transportation, we now intend to initiate a joint platform for scientific publication of research papers, case study reports, reviews and opinions that is accessible for different disciplines. The present Research Topic will be the first in a series featuring the upcoming conferences and their specific themes. However, we welcome and encourage the submission of manuscripts on transportation and ecological questions not presented at either conference.
Keywords: road ecology, wildlife, mitigation, ecoduct, animal-vehicle collision, invasive species, road verge, landscape management, green infrastructure, road kill, habitat fragmentation, barrier effects, pollution