2.1. Biodiversity within infrastructure life cycle

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Last update: June 2023

The life cycle of infrastructure development includes six broad phases: Strategic Planning, Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance, Upgrade and Adaptation -when required- and Decommissioning, the final step for infrastructure that are no longer required (Figure 2.1.1). This chapter describes how to integrate biodiversity conservation considerations in all steps of this cycle so that countries and regions can comply with regulations, international agreements, and ultimately ensure that biodiversity conservation is mainstreamed into transport infrastructure planning, design and maintenance. To achieve this, there is a stronger focus on the strategic planning phase given the important positive effects good strategic planning can have in all the subsequent phases.

Figure 2.1.1 – Phases in the life cycle of transport infrastructure including key processes and tools for mainstreaming biodiversity in each phase.

Spatial planning is a key tool in the whole life cycle of infrastructure and is often used to identify and manage potential impacts on biodiversity (see Chapter 4 – Integration of infrastructure into the landscape). The general goal of spatial planning is to achieve a balanced relationship between biodiversity conservation, economic development and the needs of local communities. As such, meaningful engagement of local stakeholders to discuss spatial plans is fundamental. Major conflicts between transport and biodiversity can be avoided and optimal spatial solutions may be found through spatial planning and stakeholder consultations.

The main processes and tools associated with the phases of the transport infrastructure life cycle are described in Table 2.1. Specific tools such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and Appropriate Assessment (AA) are associated with these phases. Different tools are used within each phase to avoid negative impacts and achieve positive effects on biodiversity, when possible.

Processes of planning and designing transport infrastructure start from transport policies at European and national level, which should include and align with global, regional and national biodiversity agreements for the conservation of biodiversity. This must be expressed in concrete goals and objectives in national Transport Strategies and Master Plans, which are long-term planning documents that provide a conceptual layout to guide future transport growth and development, and preferably in legal instruments and regulations. The next step is the delineation of main transport corridors in the interested areas followed by the evaluation of alternatives to avoid impacts in natural habitats and ecological corridors, and the selection of a route or site, to then develop the final detailed project. These studies of alternatives should be included in impacts assessments at a strategic (SEA) and at a project level (EIA).

The process must include estimating the expected direct, indirect and cumulative impacts and the application of the Avoidance, Reduction and Compensation (ARC) framework to identify mitigation measures to manage those impacts (see Chapter 3 – The mitigation hierarchy). Stakeholder consultation should be central requirement in the initial steps.

Design is followed by the construction phase when loss and fragmentation of natural habitats happens through change of land use and topography at a landscape level. In this phase constructive methods and appropriate vigilance can reduce impacts on biodiversity.

Operation is the longest phase of the transport infrastructure life cycle. During this phase, biodiversity is affected by traffic and inappropriate maintenance which cause wildlife mortality, habitat fragmentation, disturbance and spreading of alien species. Best maintenance practices are crucial to reduce negative impacts on biodiversity and even, if appropriately planned, may contribute to benefit nature enhancing conservation of flora and fauna in habitats associated with transport infrastructure (see Chapter 7 – Maintenance). Upgrade and adaptation phase take place when infrastructure needs to be improved due to aging and degradation, to adapt to new conditions or to face events related to climate change. This could threaten both infrastructure resilience and biodiversity conservation. Defragmentation plans to reduce the barrier effect, wildlife mortality and other effects of infrastructure could also be undertaken in this phase. The implementation of such actions helps to strengthen green infrastructure.

Finally, decommissioning is the last phase that occurs only in specific cases when the infrastructure is no longer required. Appropriate reuse of the soil and ecological restoration could be applied in this phase to benefit biodiversity.

Table 2.1 – Key topics, processes and tools to be applied during particular phases of transport infrastructure development to mitigate negative impacts on nature and enhance biodiversity.

PhaseDescription (subphases)Key mitigation actions to reduce negative impactsProcesses and tools
Strategic planning (Section 2.2) Transport policy: Authorities define and adopt a National Transport Policy following international and EU/European agreements on sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.Mainstream biodiversity in National Transport Policies integrating biodiversity and green infrastructure in:
─ Goal and aims of sustainability of transport development.
─ Fundamental principles to be established. Basic concepts to deal with Crucial objectives to be addressed and targets to be achieved.
Ensure the following processes are in place:
─ Close collaboration with environmental sectors and expertise
─  Consultation with the relevant stakeholders and the public
─ Secure financial support and budgeting of sustainably practices
─  Establish the culture of learning and permanent capacity building.
Create and/or use these tools:
─  Updated information and data sets to support decision making and policy implementation.
─ Necessary legal instruments (law, ministerial degree, regulation and other) for implementation in national and local regional scale. 
Transport Strategy / Master Plan: Scope and identification of needs, feasibility and locations where infrastructure could be built. It includes developing a National Transport Master Plan and delimitation of transport corridors/sites.The objectives of the National Transport Policies must be transferred to concrete actions of the National Transport Strategy / Master Plans.
Identification and evaluation of conflicts in both geographical-spatial scale and assessment of the impacts on strategic level between transport development and biodiversity conservation.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
─ Route/site options and restrictions are developed.
─ Identification of contents and extent of the information required to be submitted to the competent authorities.
─ Description and maps of protected areas; ecological corridors (migration study for target species), protected habitats and species, etc. Identification of areas to be preserved from infrastructure development.
─ Estimation the budget needed for mitigation measures to avoid, reduce or compensate for impacts
─Description and evaluation of expected direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the transport development concept.
─ Definition of large-scale mitigation measures following the Avoid, Restore Compensate (ARC, see Chapter 3 – The mitigation hierarchy) framework to reduce impact on the environment and fulfil international, national, and local environmental legislation. 
─ Registration of baseline data during the development of SEA to enable appropriate monitoring and evaluation during construction and operation phases.
(Section 2.3)  
Definition of specifics of the infrastructure project.
· Concept design: including route/site selection where the project is outlined including choice of route alignment or site.
· Detailed design: including technical prescriptions and budget required for construction, also known as ‘Constructive project’.
· Building permit.
· Procurement.
Evaluation of alternatives for route or site selection of specific projects, evaluation of cumulative effects, biological surveys, proposal of placement and mitigation measures to be applied.
Analyse of impacts on protected areas, key habitats and species, and ecological corridors.
Proposal for a monitoring plan.
Definition of special requirements to be included in the procurement to guarantee that contractors apply sustainable policies and have appropriate knowledge and expertise. on implementation of mitigation measures to protect biodiversity.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
─ Evaluation of the proposed project environmental impact, including cumulative effects, determining whether it is possible to implement the project and under what conditions it would be acceptable.
─ Definition of the mitigation measures following the ARC framework to avoid, reduce or compensate impacts and potential actions to enhance biodiversity.
─ Ecological monitoring before the assessment starts in order to collect the baseline data for biodiversity.
─ Definition of monitoring program to be applied during construction and operation.
(Section 2.4) 
Execution of the works.
· Site preparation.
· Building.
· Final adjustments and integration to the landscape.
Improvements to be done during the ‘guarantee period’.
Minimization of impacts on key habitats and species.
Preventing animals entering the construction site.
Adapting the building schedule to avoid harm to wildlife.
Protecting surrounding habitats from pollution and disturbance.
Design of a maintenance plan for the ecological asset (road verges, mitigation measures, etc.) to be provided to the infrastructure operator.
Ecological construction supervision
─ Ecological monitoring during construction.
Final inspection before delivery of the infrastructure to operator.
Operation and maintenance 
(Section 2.5) 
Tasks required to ensure correct functioning of the infrastructure and the mitigation measures.
· Maintenance of ecological asset.
· Monitoring and evaluation the impact of the infrastructure on wildlife and the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
· Upgrading and adaptation of the infrastructure. Including (when required) a detailed design which may be submitted to EIA process.
Assessment of the effects of infrastructure operation and maintenance on biodiversity.
Assessment of the functionality and effectiveness of mitigation measures, reduction of wildlife mortality, disturbance to adjacent ecosystems.
Preventing the spreading and propagation of Invasive Alien Species.
Implementation of measures to enhance biodiversity of habitats associated with transport infrastructure (see Chapter 4 – Integration of infrastructure into the landscape and Chapter 5 – Solutions to mitigate impacts and benefit nature).
Adaptation of existing infrastructure to climate change related events providing opportunities to reduce impacts on wildlife and apply Nature-based Solutions (NbS)  (Chapter 5 – Solutions to mitigate impacts and benefit nature).
Maintenance and monitoring plans
─ Inspection and check if standards and key performance indicators are met, evaluate results and take corrective measures if required (see Chapter 7 – Maintenance) in a life-long follow up process.
─ Apply actions required to guarantee that appropriate status and functioning of mitigation measures is preserved.
─ Ecological monitoring during operation and evaluation of the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
─ Propose new measures to be included in similar future infrastructure projects.
─ Publish and disseminate lessons to be learned.
(section 2.6)  
Actions to reuse and restore land when the infrastructure is no longer required.
· Demolition plan and future land use.
· Demolition of the infrastructure and proper waste reuse, recycle or disposal.
Habitat restoration or land reuse.
Ecological disposal of construction waste, when reuse or recycle is not possible.
Creation of new habitats.
Avoid new impacts on biodiversity when changing the use of infrastructure.
Demolition and land restoration plans
─ Change of land use project (e.g. the conversion of an old single track railway into a cycle path or the creation of a restored habitat for wildlife).
─ Potential EIA or AA of the demolition plan.
Ecological restoration that enhances wildlife habitats and ecological networks.

Maximum file size: 134.22MB

Tell us if we can share parts of your documents on this website