September 30, 2011

Landscape fragmentation: lessons for planning

Which part of Ireland has best maintained its natural landscape intact in the face of pressure from urban development and transport infrastructure - thereby lessening the negative impacts on its wildlife populations? According to a new European Environmental Agency scientific report on 'landscape fragmentation' the South-West takes this plaudit narrowly ahead of both the West and Border regions. Due to their relative remoteness and low population densities, these regions are in turn a good deal less fragmented than the others, including highly urbanised Dublin which, not surprisingly, trails in a distant last. Northern Ireland is adjudged to be significantly more fragmented than all Irish regions bar the capital.

All told, the verdict on Ireland from this first pan-European report on the topic is positive by comparison with the high fragmentation in evidence across Benelux, Malta, Germany and France. In these countries, development (sometimes in common with other human impacts such as intensive agriculture) has had widespread and very serious impacts on wildlife in terms of noise, pollution, subdivision of habitats and isolation. Changes to ecology are described as having a slow-burner effect on animal populations, indicating that further species decline across Europe is highly likely to result for ongoing steady increases in landscape fragmentation. The report also points out that the process facilitates the spread of invasive species and reduces the ecosystem services that human society relies on. The EU recently adopted a Strategy on Biodiversity and Ecosystems where green infrastructure features prominently.

The study purports to provide a foundation for environmental monitoring and protective measures for those landscapes that remain intact. It also makes the point that decision-making on infrastructure and development continues to fail to account for the value of landscapes and that considerations such as biodiversity and landscape quality are often marginalised whereas fragmentation analysis should be integrated into transport and regional planning so that cumulative effects are considered more effectively in the future.

'Landscape Fragmentation in Europe' report

Posted by iroronan at September 30, 2011 05:48 PM

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