Should We Invest in Green Bridges to Save Wildlife From Highways?

This question challenges the very nature of our relationship with the world around us. To what extent do we really want to protect wildlife and other species, and are we willing to invest money in that?

What we do to the environment impacts non-human lives as well, and while this is not news to most people, truly understanding that statement is a step too far for many in a world that enables unconsciousness. If you were to categorize this direct impact upon non-human lives, infrastructure would join the likes of industrial farming, animal testing and major-scale deforestation. And all of a sudden, it no longer seems like a casual rhetorical question.

Highways quite literally carve up the ecosystems around us and have major effects on wildlife — including animal road deaths, separating colonies of animals, reducing breeding potential, cutting off food supply and even affecting biodiversity as a whole. If you think of the 2,000 or so miles of motorways in the UK alone, and the billions of pounds reserved to spend on constructing more highways, the extent of natural habitat disruption and wildlife at risk become real and harrowing.

So comes the idea of Green Bridges. Green bridges are protective over- or underpasses built for wildlife to cross highways safely, without running the risk of being hurt on the roads as they make their way about their daily lives. These special bridges provide small and large mammals, amphibians, insects and reptiles with a safe alternative to follow regional or trans-regional routes, while mitigating the fragmentation of their habitat and feeding/mating patterns.

In a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind study, UK-based conservation group Natural England examined 56 examples of green bridges across the world. The study concluded green bridges will occupy a major part of the effort toward sustainable transport in the future through creating safe crossing points for animals in conflict points. The study also observed that green bridges not only reconnect habitats — the bridges themselves also provide homes for animals.

The same study also discovered green bridges also help increase pollination, as well as encourage birds to travel freely — twice the number of birds flew over the Compton Faunal overpass in Brisbane than those flying over the road.

Once again, this is not breaking news — but what is important is that the conversations are happening within governments, and there is overwhelming public support for upcoming green bridge projects. Across Europe, countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have incorporated green bridges into their national infrastructure projects from as early as 1988. In Holland, one of the 47 ecoducts is the 50-meter-wide Terlet overpass, built above the A50 motorway. Over six years, three different species of deer, wild boar, red fox, badger, vole and mole were found to use this ecoduct regularly.

In Sweden, an overpass encouraged roe deer and moose to move freely without risking their lives on the roads, and studies found car accidents involving deer decreased by up to 70 percent. As a further example, two green bridges in Banff built over the Trans-Canada Highway have done wonders for supporting breeding between bears in the area, thus maintaining a competitively large gene pool.

With the positives being so overwhelmingly advantageous to our natural world, as well as to car passengers, it is difficult to understand the hesitation of countries like the UK from following in the footsteps of their European cousins. The major drawback is in many respects a “one-off,” but remains a sizeable investment on top of existing infrastructure projects. Initial costs of building a green bridge are approximately £2 million, which does not include ongoing maintenance costs. Then, of course, the engineering team must place green bridges at the most critical positions, ensure enough footage of soil to support fauna and foliage, etc.

Given the studies showing green bridges’ major contribution to preserving our wildlife, government spending on them is a small investment toward the chance to save animals from manmade obstacles. The steps toward building more green bridges around the world is a good sign for humanity, and a much-needed indication that we are becoming more aware of non-human species’ right to live in the world alongside us.




This Women of Green guest blog is by Megan Ray Nichols. Megan writes about many environmental topics including, renewable energy, conservation and sustainability. She invites you to join the discussion on her own blog, Schooled By Science.



Women of Green is TURNING UP THE VOLUME of the feminine voice on the planet in order to create the world we know is possible.

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