7.2.1. Steps to develop the ecological asset maintenance plan

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Last update: June 2023

The maintenance plan should be developed following the steps shown in Figure 7.2.2.

Figure 7.2.2 – Main steps to design and develop an ecological asset maintenance plan.

Step 1 – Define elements to be maintained

The first step to develop a maintenance plan is to identify the ecological assets that require specific maintenance guidelines. At minimum the following elements should be included:

  • Wildlife fences and screens
  • Wildlife passages
  • Wildlife warning signs
  • Verges and other green areas
  • Ponds and other drainage elements
  • Animal-vehicle collision management

Step 2 – Compile and organize information

To correctly implement a maintenance plan, all information relating to ecological assets must be compiled and organised. Existing infrastructure databases should be updated to include ecological asset information.

Online databases will allow easy access to the information and give better notice about scheduled actions to be undertaken. Remote sensing and new technologies will allow easier checking and supervisor control. When a recorded parameter is not in line with the standard conditions or corrective measures are required, alerts could be provided. Contents to be included in inventories of ecological assets are shown in Table 7.3.

Table 7.3 – Main ecological asset features to be included in infrastructure databases (it is recommended that online GIS databases are used).

Fields to be included in the ecological asset database
Code, description and location
– Location (accurate GPS coordinates).
– Features to be recorded vary depending on the element. Consider including dimensions, shape, construction materials; features of the soil, vegetation, animal refuges, etc. (in case of verge management); features of slopes, water quality, etc. (in case of retention ponds).
Goals, ecological functions and standards
– Identification of target species or habitats that will benefit from measures.
– Ecological function to be achieved.
– Technical specification and standards to be met.
– Thresholds and deviations that will trigger corrective measures to be established.
Actions to undertake
– Schedule for maintenance activities (including inspection tasks).
– Instructions for actions to be undertaken.
– Record of actions undertaken.

Step 3 – Draft maintenance plan

The maintenance plan is the basic document which describes objectives and actions to be undertaken. As mentioned in Section 7.1.2 – Introduction. Special requirements for ecological assets maintenance the scope of the plan can vary largely, from the whole transportation network in a country or region, to a single ecological asset.

Main contents to be included in an ‘Ecological asset maintenance plan’ are listed in Table 7.4.

Table 7.4 – Main contents to be included in an Ecological asset maintenance plan.

Contents to be included in an ‘Ecological asset maintenance plan’
General information on ecological context
– Description of landscape, ecosystems, and target species.
– Natural Protected Areas.
– Ecological connectivity.
– Main constrains and ecological hazards (invasive alien species, forest fires, flooding, etc).
– Main potential benefits for biodiversity.
General policy and legal obligations
– Legal obligations to be met.
– Description of general policies.
– General goals to be achieved.
Ecological asset inventory and guidelines for maintenanace
– Inventory and description of all elements to be maintained (see Step 2).
– Concise description and schedule for inspection and maintenance for each element according to local conditions.
– Thresholds and procedures for identifying conflicts or deviations from standards with procedures to implement corrective measures.
Animal-Vehicle Collisions management
– Instructions to record and analyse data on AVC (methods for identifying ‘hot spots’).
– Instructions for carcass recovery and management.
– Thresholds and procedures to implement corrective measures.

Appropriate inspection and regular maintenance should guarantee the performance of the ecological assets and reduce the need for future ‘responsive maintenance’ (corrective measures) and investments required to restore ecological function. Tasks to be described include:

  • Periodical inspections to check the appropriate state of the elements and managed areas and to test proper functioning of any device.
  • Repair or replace damaged elements.
  • Prepare soils, manage vegetation, guarantee appropriate water management on drainage elements, remove undesired materials, apply procedures to detect and remove invasive alien species (IAS), and other activities needed to maintain appropriate ecological conditions in green areas, ponds and other aquatic or terrestrial habitats.
  • Collect and provide appropriate management of animal carcasses after traffic collisions, record and analyse data allowing the implementation of corrective measures to avoid future accidents.
  • Monitor tasks to assess the functionality and effectiveness of measures and actions undertaken (evaluating the achievement of standards and KPI) and compliance monitoring.
  • Detect deviations and conflicts (mortality of fauna observed in any section or element of the infrastructure, wildlife crossing not being used by target species, etc.) and develop procedures to apply corrective measures (‘responsive maintenance’).

Step 4 – Apply a cooperative approach

Transport authorities should provide platforms for cooperation with environment, water and land authorities, as well as regional and local stakeholders. Table 7.5 shows each stakeholder’s main concerns. Contracts, agreements and regular stakeholder meetings are some tools to establish cooperation.

Table 7.5 – Stakeholders who may be involved in maintenance of ecological assets in transport infrastructure.

Topics of concern for cooperation
Environmental administrations
– Target and priority species and habitats, Natural Protected Areas, ecological corridors, and other elements of the Green Infrastructure.
– Biodiversity strategies plans and regulations that affect particular areas, habitats or species.
– Cooperation in wildlife mitigation measures maintenance (such as wildlife passages or restored habitats).
Water administrations
– Extreme weather events that are expected to increase in the context of climate change and affect the infrastructure’s resilience and particularly ecological asset management.
– Drainage system (culverts, ditches and ponds) management according to the surrounding aquatic habitats.
– Provision of valuable habitats for aquatics species (adapted ponds) and opportunities for wildlife crossing (drains adapted to use by wildlife).
Land-planning administrations
– Regulating land use in areas adjacent to wildlife passages and other transport infrastructure habitats managed to enhance wildlife conservation.
– The maintenance of ecological corridors in the hinterland which are crucial to connect wildlife passages to natural areas.
Local administrations
– The possible engagement of local organisations and citizens in ecological asset maintenance and monitoring.
Landowners, farmers, hunters and research, nature and land stewardship organisations
– Cooperation in wildlife mitigation measures maintenance (such as wildlife passages or restored habitats).
– Cooperation in monitoring of ecological assets, target species or habitats around transport infrastructure.
– Help to collect information on animal-vehicle collisions and management of injured or dead fauna.

Step 5 – Implement training

An ecological asset maintenance training programme should provide essential information to technical staff and field crews which improves the daily practice of ecological asset maintenance operations. Requirements to develop a training programme are:

  • Define purpose, goals and target audience.
  • Set a training curriculum suitable for each staff (technicians, field crews, etc.).
  • Identify topics and staff needs.
  • Schedule regular training seminars to update knowledge including field trips and practical training.
  • Develop participative seminars to gather information from field crews and technical maintenance staff and learn from it.
  • Provide specific training materials such as ‘toolbox’, sheets and field guides to identify species.
  • Apps and websites could be envisaged as a useful tool allowing a continuous knowledge and procedures update.
  • Choose trainers who combine teaching skills, expertise on wildlife and a good comprehensive knowledge of road and railways operations as required.

The main target audiences and contents to be provided are:

To field crews and technical maintenance staff

  • Basic ecological concepts and goals for wildlife mitigation measures
  • Basic knowledge about target flora and fauna species
  • To understand importance of being alert for detecting and eradicating IAS
  • How to develop wildlife-related maintenance actions and provide appropriate conditions in green areas and aquatic habitats associated with drainage elements.  
  • How to use devices and apply methods for recording wildlife information.
  • To learn about ecological traps and how to identify them.

To transport authority staff

  • Increase ability to assess compliance with the standard required, according to the infrastructure’s ecological asset maintenance plan.
  • Understand the role of maintenance and traffic regulations in traffic accidents involving wildlife, disturbance mitigation measures and data registration of these events.

To transport infrastructure planners

  • Incorporate ecological assets and wildlife mitigation measures into new transport infrastructure, taking account of lessons learned from monitoring undertaking by the infrastructure operators.

Step 6 – Monitor, evaluate and report

Regular inspection tasks undertaken by maintenance teams aim to check that each mitigation measure is operating in accordance with the specified standards, legal or regulatory requirements established in the maintenance plan, and also to identify conflicts that require new corrective actions to restore appropriate performance. 

The evaluation and monitoring described here is quite distinct from expert ecological monitoring to evaluate if ecological goals have been reached and maintained long term. This requires developing specific methodologies that should be designed and applied by experts. Such ecological monitoring is addressed in Chapter 6 – Evaluation and monitoring.

Inspection actions to be undertaken by maintenance crews are described in factsheets (see Section 7.4 – Maintenance tasks sheets). Some examples are:

  • To inspect for damage in fencing, screens, signs, etc.
  • To ensure materials are maintained in good condition
  • To check that electronic devices are functioning correctly (e.g. sensors and signs activated by ADS)
  • To detect any inappropriate material or use (e.g. debris or human uses) non-compatible with functions or performance of the ecological assets.
  • To check if any animal is trapped or has died in any element of the infrastructure (e.g. fish in retention ponds, birds in the base of the screens, etc.)
  • To check if the vegetation status is correct and no IAS are detected.
  • To check water quality in ponds, verify that no animals are found dead or trapped and no IAS are detected.
  • To identify hot spots of traffic mortality where animal carcasses are removed frequently.

All data must be recorded in a standardised way and integrated in databases established in the maintenance plan to allow proper analysis and assessment so should be readily accessible to all concerned parties (see Step 2).

Producing regular comprehensive internal reports (annually or more frequently) would play a crucial role in improving future maintenance practice and even bettering design and construction. Reports should identify conflicts and suitable corrective measures and would be useful to develop alternative good practice, to share relevant information with stakeholders and to encourage innovation. The questions to be answered in maintenance reports are:

  • What have we done?
  • What is effective or even better than anticipated?
  • What problems have we found in applying maintenance guidelines?
  • What failures have we detected in wildlife mitigation measures?
  • Which unforeseen conflicts with fauna occurred?
  • Which solutions and innovative ideas can be provided to solve them?

At periodic intervals (e.g., 5 years), the ecological asset maintenance plan should be reviewed taking account of all improvements, new technologies and solutions identified. This wider perspective on performance and results will help guarantee continuous improvement of the practice.

Step 7 – Adapting maintenance according to results

Evaluation of ecological asset maintenance practice will optimise cost-effectiveness and lead to continuous improvement and identification of best maintenance practice.

Where deviations or conflicts are identified, corrective measures should modify current practices or apply innovative solutions. Appropriate assessment by wildlife experts will verify these modifications and solutions.

Examples of improvements are:

  • If wildlife damage to fences or other wildlife mitigation measures and the species responsible for the problem are identified, reinforcements or solutions can be designed.
  • Vandalism or theft of elements of ecological assets will lead to more resistant designs or materials that can be introduced along with other methods to avoid damage in the future.
  • Impediments to maintenance of wildlife mitigation measures (e.g., designs that prevent access for maintenance; vegetation planted in a way that can potentially damage fences; ponds that cannot be cleaned with proper fauna rescue) will lead to solutions to avoid this in the future.

Handbooks on mitigation techniques and the cooperation of wildlife experts and other stakeholders can help to define solutions to recurring conflicts. On the other hand, disseminating information about failures and successful solutions could help to improve future practice in design, construction and maintenance of ecological assets.


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