International experts recommend ways on preserving the movements of migratory species in the face of infrastructure development
Linear infrastructures such as fences, railways, roads, pipelines and canals create significant barriers to the movements of migratory mammals. Elephants, Saiga antelopes and Cheetahs are just some examples of animals who cover large distances in order to feed, find a water source, breed or escape unfavorable weather conditions. These movements are threatened by infrastructure development, which fragments and destroys habitat and creates barriers on migration routes, leading to genetic isolation, leaving smaller and more vulnerable populations. Following a decision of the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) a multi-stakeholder Linear Infrastructure Working Group was established under the CMS Scientific Council to address the impact of infrastructure on migratory species and their habitats.
The meeting on Vilm island brought together experts and representatives from environmental and infrastructure related institutions from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, international financial institutions, scientific and impact assessment communities, and NGOs. The meeting of the IWG was co-organized by the CMS Secretariat and the host, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation of Germany, with funds provided by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany.
The IWG discussed existing guidance material, the availability and accessibility of data on migratory species’ movements and habitats, and existing and planned infrastructure; the international and national governance structures for the application of standards and guidelines for migratory species in infrastructure development; and the lessons learned from the application of the Guidelines for Addressing the Impact of Linear Infrastructure on Large Migratory Mammals in Central Asia.
Based on the findings of the meeting, the IWG developed recommendations to the upcoming 6th meeting of the Sessional Committee of the Scientific Council (ScC-SC6) and the 14th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP14). The recommendations relate to the need for increasing awareness on the importance of animal movements and thus of maintaining the permeability of landscapes in general, but especially among infrastructure planners, developers, and financiers. Migratory species should be given special consideration in infrastructure planning and impact assessment in such a way that fragmentation of migratory corridors by infrastructure are either avoided at the planning stage or that permeability is maintained by appropriate measures across infrastructure. To adequately integrate migratory corridors into planning, it is therefore indispensable and urgently necessary to improve data availability and accessibility both on wildlife migration and infrastructure planning for infrastructure planners, developers as well as the science and conservation community. For example, the BISON project is currently developing a map of nationally significant ecological connectivity corridor plans. This map is intended to form the basis for reconnection projects of European importance while raising awareness of the need for landscape permeability in policy, planning, and society.