Human infrastructure in 80% of global biodiversity sites, study finds


Human infrastructure is present in at least 80% of the world’s most important biodiversity sites, according to a new study.

The most common types were roads, power lines and urban areas, while many locations in the future face further extractive industries such as mines and fossil fuel infrastructure.

BirdLife International researchers, WWFthe RSPB and the University of Cambridge looked at a global network of areas internationally recognized as critical to wildlife – known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).

They found that of the 15,150 KBAs, three quarters contained roads and more than a third contained power lines and urban areas.

They also found that potential developments could lead to an additional 2,201 CBAs with mines (an increase of 292%), a further 1,508 CBAs with oil and gas infrastructure (an increase of 72%) and an additional 1,372 CBAs with power plants (an increase of 589%). )

We recognize that infrastructure is essential for human development, but it’s about smart building

Human infrastructure is one of the leading causes of threats to biodiversity, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, causing habitat destruction and fragmentation, pollution, increased hunting and the spread of invasive species.

Ash Simkins, a zoology PhD student at the University of Cambridge who led the study, said: “It is concerning that human developments exist in the vast majority of locations identified as being of critical importance to wildlife.

“We recognize that infrastructure is essential for human development, but it’s about smart building.

“This ideally means avoiding or otherwise minimizing infrastructure in key biodiversity sites.

“If the infrastructure is to be there, it must be designed in such a way that it causes as little damage as possible and more than offsets the consequences elsewhere.”

Publishing their work in the journal Biological Conservation, the researchers overlaid maps with data on different types of infrastructure, categorized as transportation, dams and reservoirs, extractives, energy and urban areas.

Energy and extractive were the only categories for which some global data on planned developments was available.

The regions with the highest share of planned extractive development in CBAs are South Americasub-Saharan, Central and Southern Africa and parts of South East Asia.

All identified CBAs in Bangladesh, Kuwait, Republic of Congo and Serbia face the potential of developing extractive industries.

The researchers also said renewable energy propulsion, which requires mining for precious metals used in solar panels, wind farms and batteries, should ensure that the impact on biodiversity is minimised.

Dr. Stuart Butchart, co-author of the study, chief scientist at BirdLife and research associate at the University of Cambridge, said: “At the UN Biodiversity Cop15 meetings in Montreal last year, governments committed to halting human-induced extinctions. to call.

“Widespread destruction or degradation of the natural habitats within CBAs can lead to large-scale extinctions, so existing infrastructure in CBAs should be managed to minimize impact and further development in these locations should be avoided wherever possible.”

The researchers said infrastructure can vary in how it causes biodiversity loss and more work is needed to study its effect in individual CBAs so more can be learned about how to mitigate it.

Wendy Elliott, deputy chief for wildlife at WWF, said: “Infrastructure supports our societies, provides the water we drink, the roads we travel on and the electricity that sustains our livelihoods.

“This study illustrates the critical importance of ensuring smart infrastructure development that provides social and economic value for all, while ensuring positive outcomes for nature.

“Making this a reality will be the challenge of our time, but with the right planning, design and effort it is well within the realm of possibility.”