Monday, 26 october 2020 | Redacción CEU
The pandemic has put things into perspective. For example, the vision we have about cities, our lifestyle and our relationship with nature. First the lockdown, and then the search for the "new normal", forced us to look at our cities differently: in terms of their logic, design, operation, and so on. When cities are empty and their inhabitants spend a lot of time isolated in them, it is not strange for them to develop a new look which is more focused on their new needs: areas where they can go for a walk, outdoor spaces where they can keep social distance, roads adapted to alternative means of transport, green areas to enjoy, etc. This new way of looking at things in cities is not new. Over the last few years there have been many projects that have reflected on the way we live and move in our metropolises and also on how we do so outside them. Without a doubt, that vision often puts people at the center, but we are not the only inhabitants on Earth. People have highways, but what about animals?
What are we getting at with this introduction? Do animals need to drive, commute to work, get to appointments quickly or avoid traffic jams? They certainly do not. Nonetheless, they need to move from one side to another, and, if possible, to do so without crossing any roads, since they run the risk of getting hit by cars. According to a study published by the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and Environment a few months ago, an average of 9 million birds and 1.5 mammals are killed on the road each year in Spain. The figure is even more shocking when we look at the overall European data: 194 million birds and 29 million mammals.
In recent years, we have made great progress in terms of new mobility within and outside the cities, but what about animal mobility? Can we do something for them?
Do "animal highways" really exist?
The concept of "animal highway" is not an invention, but this may not be the most appropriate name to refer to this idea. Other similar terms are "ecological corridors", "wildlife corridors" or "wildlife crossing". These terms refer to the ease that animals and other organisms have to move, disperse, connect with other populations, and so forth. Ecological corridors are places that, naturally or thanks to human intervention, enable ecological connectivity. In other words, they connect one place to another, thus contributing to the development of the species.
One of the great threats to biodiversity is precisely habitat fragmentation. To a large extent, this habitat separation is linked to human action and, particularly, to urban development and the construction of transport infrastructures. However, there are other elements that may contribute to this fragmentation, such as the development of intensive crops or the overexploitation of water resources.