Conservation gains from shared linear infrastructure in South Australia

51
RESEARCH AREA
51

This week’s featured research article has just been published in Conservation Biology and quantifies the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure in South Australia. The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and railways is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. The researchers quantified the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital costs under linear infrastructure sharing of a range of potential mine to port transportation links for 47 mine locations operated by 28 separate companies in the Upper Spencer Gulf Region of South Australia. They mapped transport links based on least-cost pathways for different levels of linear-infrastructure sharing and used expert-elicited impacts of linear infrastructure to estimate the consequences for biodiversity. They then evaluated proposed mine-port links by comparing biodiversity impacts and capital costs across 3 scenarios: an independent scenario, where no infrastructure is shared; a restricted-access scenario, where the largest mining companies share infrastructure but exclude smaller mining companies from sharing; and a shared scenario where all mining companies share linear infrastructure. Fully shared development of linear infrastructure reduced overall biodiversity impacts by 76% and reduced capital costs by 64% compared with the independent scenario. However, there was considerable variation among companies. The restricted-access scenario showed only modest biodiversity benefits relative to the independent scenario, indicating that reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, which often occurs without policies that promote sharing of infrastructure. The researchers conclude that this study helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimize the biodiversity impacts of development. The article can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).