A paper co-written by King’s PhD candidate Ash Simkins highlights that at least 80% of the world’s most important sites for biodiversity on land currently contain human developments. Published today in Biological Conservation, the study is a collaboration between researchers from BirdLife International, WWF and the RSPB, in association with the University of Cambridge.
This is the first ever assessment of the presence of infrastructure in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), a global network of thousands of sites recognised internationally as being the world’s most critical areas for wildlife. Researchers assessed 15,150 KBAs and found that 80% contained infrastructure including roads (75%), power lines (37%) and urban developments (37%).
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, infrastructural development is one of the greatest drivers of threats to biodiversity, causing natural habitat destruction and fragmentation, pollution, increased disturbance or hunting by humans, the spread of invasive species, and direct mortality.
We recognise that infrastructure is essential to human development but it’s about building smartly. This means ideally avoiding or otherwise minimising infrastructure in the most important locations for biodiversity. If the infrastructure must be there, then it should be designed to cause as little damage as possible, and the impacts more than compensated for elsewhere.
It’s also concerning to see that in the future, extensive mining and oil and gas related infrastructure is planned to be built in many of the world’s most important sites for biodiversity.