Ben & Ciara
The Vital Role of Wildlife Bridges: Connecting Habitats, Saving Species
From their critical role in reducing road accidents to preserving migration patterns, learn about the design and construction of these incredible structures and the positive impact they have on our ecosystems!
As the world progresses and expands, so does the amount of roads and highways being constructed to connect all of the places where people are. Sadly, this also means that human-caused animal deaths are skyrocketing. To combat this across the globe, engineers and planners have devised an ingenious solution to preserve the lives and natural flow of ecosystems everywhere: wildlife bridges!
What are Wildlife Crossings?
Wildlife crossings are critical structures that enable wildlife to cross highways and other transportation infrastructure safely, helping to preserve both wildlife populations and their habitats. They play a vital role in reducing road accidents and preserving migration patterns for species that rely on seasonal food sources, breeding grounds, or other essential resources. Wildlife crossings not only benefit wildlife, but they also improve public safety by reducing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and potential human-wildlife conflict.
The construction and design of wildlife crossings require careful consideration and a strategic approach. By conducting thorough environmental assessments and consulting with wildlife experts, bridges and crossings can be designed to effectively and safely serve the needs of wildlife and people alike.
Proper location, design, and construction are essential to ensure the crossings will actually be used by wildlife and are sustainable over time. While simply building fences along highways can reduce the amount of roadkill by over 50 percent, this method also divides wildlife populations, limiting their ability to find mates, food, and water sources. By creating wildlife bridges, animals are able to expand their territories and increase their chances of survival.
Global Wildlife Bridges
One of the most impressive examples of wildlife bridges can be found in the Netherlands, where over 600 of these structures have been built to help animals like deer and wild boar safely cross busy highways! The country has even thought about marine life when installing new highways, with the Veluwemeer Aqueduct bridge being a great example.
Banff National Park in the Canadian province of Alberta is another prime example of how successful wildlife crossings can be. Starting in 1996, they opened 6 wildlife overpasses and 38 underpasses which, as of today, have resulted in more than 140,000 documented wildlife crossings!
Every year on Christmas Island, an Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean, a great red crab migration takes place! This occurrence is made possible thanks to the world’s only bridge specifically engineered for crabs. This bridge allows millions of red crabs to travel from the forests to the ocean to breed and come back safely. The bridge has been an invaluable aid in guaranteeing the longevity of the crabs, and is also a fun sight for tourists who visit the island!
Brand new projects continue to break ground around the world, such as The Wallis Annenberg Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing in Southern California. The crossing, located on the much-travelled US 101 highway, is intended to serve as a critical connection for mountain lions. The bridge will cover the ten lanes of US-101 Freeway and, if all goes according to plan, should be complete by 2025!
The benefits of wildlife crossings extend beyond just preserving individual animal populations–they also help to maintain the delicate balance of our planet's ecosystems. By allowing wildlife to expand their territories and increase their chances of survival, we can help to ensure that the natural processes that keep our ecosystems healthy remain intact. As we look to the future and the continued growth of our civilisation, it is more important than ever to find ways to coexist with the wildlife that shares our planet. Wildlife crossings are a testament to our ability to do just that. They also remind us that, despite all of the challenges we face, it is possible to find solutions that work for everyone
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