4. Integration of infrastructure into the landscape

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Last update: June 2023 - How to cite

Overview

Sustainable infrastructure development aims to ensure the viable coexistence of biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and human activities. This aim requires the development and maintenance of transport infrastructure in a dynamic and adaptive way so that sustainability is achieved at both project and landscape scale. In practice, integrating infrastructure into the landscape means that the whole infrastructure life cycle considers landscape dynamics, which are driven by natural and human processes.

This chapter aims at addressing key topics to integrate transport infrastructure into changing, living landscapes by outlining some landscape management approaches that play a major role in landscape dynamics and consequently in biodiversity conservation. In addition, methods and techniques commonly used in landscape ecology may be used for the development of holistic cross-sectoral analysis of territories. Ultimately, this is expected to lead to a correct implementation of integrated landscape management.

Main messages

  • EU regulations now require transport infrastructure projects to contribute to overall sustainability. This can only be achieved by incorporating landscape ecology considerations into all steps of the infrastructure life cycle (see Chapter 2 – Policy, strategy and planning) and implementing all steps of the mitigation hierarchy (see Chapter 3 – The mitigation hierarchy).
  • In addition to complying with local and national policies and regulations, infrastructure development strategies should be aligned with regional and international policies and agreements such as the European Landscape Convention, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) or the Convention on Biological Diversity´s Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).
  • Integrated landscape management approaches must be implemented at all levels to appropriately embed transport infrastructure in the territories they cross ensuring they make positive contributions to nature conservation and the benefits this nature provides to local people.

Actions to take

  • Make biodiversity conservation the basis of actions aimed at integrating transport infrastructure into a landscape. Any type of action, including actions which fall within the scope of the socio-economic sector, should be evaluated for direct, indirect, and cumulative effects on biodiversity.
  • Apply methods and tools from the landscape ecology field to identify and manage impacts through the mitigation hierarchy and to support biodiversity management.
  • Incorporate into transport infrastructure design and planning new compulsory, and voluntary, approaches to manage, report and disclose key impacts and reliance on nature.
  • Consider Green Infrastructure (GI), especially ecological networks and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) as key inputs into the complete life cycle of transport infrastructure.
  • Apply the ecosystem services approach to understand and manage ecosystem functions across the landscape to benefit people and biodiversity.
  • Use participatory approaches to meaningfully engage communities, consider the historical, present, and future socio-economic dynamics at the landscape scale, and incorporate these inputs into the infrastructure development life cycle.
  • Apply the wide range of technical solutions available to integrate transport infrastructure into the landscape while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. This includes incorporating landscape management considerations into alignments, earthworks, junctions and roundabouts, tunnels, drainage, fencing and barriers, vegetation adjustments, and lighting and noise management (see Chapter 5 – Solutions to mitigate impacts and benefit nature).

Gaps of knowledge and future research

  • Integrative solutions at landscape scale are still scarce and more information is needed to ensure a correct implementation and evaluation.
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