The development and expansion of transportation infrastructure networks (i.e. roads, rails, waterways) constitutes a fundamental prerequisite for the economic growth of local/ regional and national communities ensuring the movement of people and goods.
Still the benefits that such networks offer to modern societies are often coupled with possible impacts upon ecosystems and their services.
Therefore, while the growing transportation infrastructure is necessary for economies, markets and societal structures at a regional, national and international scales, there are two “opposite” trends: the increased demand for linear transportation infrastructure and the loss of biological diversity and thus the alteration of the ecosystems and their services. One of the most significant impact of infrastructure is fragmentation.
Nowadays it is widely accepted that fragmentation of natural environment is one of the biggest threat to biodiversity. Therefore fragmentation has to be avoided and ecological connectivity has to be ensured.
In Europe, different patterns of fragmentation are observed, depending on a variety of factors as population density and dynamics, landscape structure, land use, economic development and the level of the acceptance of the impacts of fragmentation.
Following an increasing economic development trend in the South East European countries, over the last years many new large scale linear transportation infrastructure projects are in planning and construction process.
As many such infrastructure works are supported by the means and fund of the EU, target the interest of EU citizens and aim to raise sustainable and smart growth, it is extremely critical to ensure that the minimum possible impacts and ecological connectivity could be achieved.
The aim of our cooperation is to secure ecological connectivity while developing linear transportation infrastructures. Our cooperation will focus on ensuring continuity of green infrastructures and the creation of optimum conditions for the development of and coexistence with the so-called grey infrastructures, such as transportation infrastructures, in the wider framework of the sustainable use of the natural capital.
The harmonization of “grey”/linear transportation infrastructure and “green”/natural infrastructure in a developing world is of tremendous importance if we want to preserve the earth’s living environment for future generations and implement United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Towards the achievement of this co-existence, there are means to find measures for mitigating the impacts of transportation infrastructures on nature, reduce its pressure and decouple its adverse effects from the still growing demand for new infrastructure. Such measures can and should be implemented as well accepted standards in infrastructure development and maintenance toward to a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation system as a key to the modern way of life globally.
It therefore becomes obvious that there is a need for international collaboration in state-of-the-art research and best practice, for enhanced exchange of knowledge and good practices between disciplines, and for the development of harmonized standards and procedures on international, national, and regional level that can be referred to by stakeholders.
THE GREENWEB STATEMENT 1
On Harmonization of Green with Grey Infrastructure in South Eastern Europe
The GreenWeb is an open interdisciplinary Platform of experts and organizations of various fields focusing to cooperate and work on ecology and transportation in SE Europe.
The aim of the GreenWeb Platform is to secure ecological connectivity ensuring the coherence and ecological functionality of areas of high biodiversity value while developing linear transportation infrastructures at national and international levels in SE Europe.
Green and Grey demands: Two opposite trends
While growing transportation networks, included in Grey Infrastructure, are necessary to meet economical and societal needs, Green Infrastructure is considered as fundamental natural capital providing important ecosystem services for human wellbeing and biodiversity.
These demands can be contradicted when the development of Grey Infrastructure intersects Green Infrastructure, increasing the level of fragmentation of natural ecosystems.
Fragmentation is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, therefore to ensure ecological connectivity, it is important to understand the value of significant natural zones and ecological corridors as functional Green Infrastructure, when planning, building and operationalizing linear transportation infrastructure.
Ongoing economic development in the South-Eastern European countries, especially the growth of linear transportation infrastructure, generates additional pressure on nature and demands urgent actions to ensure that minimum possible negative impacts on the environment are achieved.
For Grey and Green infrastructures coexistence, proactive engagement and dialogue with all stakeholders is required in order to find the best solutions to meet the objectives of EU policies for economic development, biodiversity conservation and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
By encouraging international collaboration in policy, research and practice, we will enhance the exchange of knowledge and develop harmonized standards and procedures for all actors involved.
THE MESSAGE TO BE SPREAD
The harmonization of “Grey” and “Green” Infrastructure in a dynamic world such as South-East Europe is of tremendous importance towards conserving the earth’s living environment for future generations and for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
- Infrastructure planning / part of landscape planning
- Biodiversity studies; Environmental assessment & measures/conditions
- Technical / constructive solutions
- Landscape management
- Capacity building
- Funding opportunities
The GreenWeb Platform was initiated by a group of Romanian and Greek organizations, with the support of IENE.
Asociatia Zarand / Zarand Association (AZ). AZ is a key organization promoting the importance of landscape connectivity, harmonization’s of grey and green infrastructure in Romania. AZ members were the first to pioneer the need to safeguard the last viable ecological corridor between the Western and Southern Carpathians as an example of good practice for Romania, as a result, facilitated by AZ members, in 2010 a Statement of Intent has been signed by a number of Romanian and International relevant authorities and organizations stating their support to maintain the functionality of the corridor. AZ experts were responsible for a study commissioned by the Ministry of Environment aiming to identify new Natura 2000 sites that will ensure coherence of the network – as a result, in 2011, the first 12 Natura 2000 sites where designated in Romania with the main aim of ensuring connectivity at regional level. AZ was the lead organization to tackle the Lugoj-Deva motorway by involving national stakeholders, national and international experts and EC in finding an alternative solution to the original project which would have been a barrier for wildlife movement. As a result, the Lugoj-Deva Motorway is the first project in Romania to incorporate mitigation solutions and a potential case-study for the region. AZ was / is partner/contractor in a number of multi-partners / international projects related with connectivity and land management: LIFE Connect Carpathians project aiming to develop regional action plans for bear and wolf addressing connectivity as a particular issue, COREHABS, TRANSGREEN. AZ experts participated in development of guidelines for avoiding fragmentation by transport sector. Since 2014, as custodian of a Natura 2000 site within an ecological corridor, AZ is developing projects and activities related with conservation, sustainable development, capacity building and education. (www.zarand.org)
WWF Danube Carpathian Programme Romania (WWF RO). WWF RO is actively dealing with safeguarding the ecological connectivity and sustainable development of transport infrastructure projects since 2010 both at the national and international (Carpathian Ecoregion) levels (www.wwf.ro). In Romania, the main projects and activities related to these topics were mainly focused in Maramures (transboundary area between Romania and Ukraine), the critical ecological corridor between the Western and Southern Carpathians in Romania together with AZ, South-Western Carpathians in Romania, Hartibaciului Plateau Area. As for the international level, WWF RO has been involved in implementing several ecological connectivity related projects in the Carpathian Ecoregion, some of them to support the implementation of the Carpathian Convention and its relevant protocols (e.g. Protected Areas for a Living Planet, Bioregio). WWF RO is currently co-managing the international TransGREEN project focusing on fostering the sustainable development of the infrastructure transport projects in the Carpathian Ecoregion.
Established in 1994, Egnatia Odos SA (EO SA) is a dynamic, innovative and reputable organization, responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of one of the most complex and ambitious infrastructure projects in Greece, which consists of the Egnatia Motorway and its vertical axes (www.egnatia.eu). EO SA has also been the project manager for programmes concerning the monitoring of the status of big mammals along the motorway, of a total cost of more than €1m. EO SA has 220 highly qualified professionals and an Environment Department with long experience in environmental projects
The Department of Ecology, School of Biology at Aristotle University (AUTH), Greece. The DoE is one of the most active research departments in the field of biodiversity protection in Greece, with particular strengths on structure, dynamics, management and conservation of ecosystems and social issues of nature protection (www.bio.auth.gr). Main research areas include: Structure and function of protected areas and ecological management; Human dimension of conservation; Operation and improvement of the European network NATURA 2000; Societal perceptions of environmental issues; Public awareness as applied in nature conservation. DoE has a long experience in many European and national research projects.
The Babeș-Bolyai University, commonly known after its abbreviation, UBB, is a public university in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. With more than 41,000 students in 2015, it is the largest university in the country (www.ubbcluj.ro/en). The Babeș-Bolyai University offers study programmes in Romanian, Hungarian, German, English, and French. It is one of the five members of the Universitaria Consortium (the group of elite Romanian universities). UBB is affiliated, inter alia, to the International Association of Universities, the Santander Group, the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie and the European University Association. Likewise, UBB signed the Magna Charta Universitatum and concluded partnerships with 210 universities in 50 countries, and it is widely considered as one of the most prestigious in Eastern Europe.
With the support of
IENE – Infra Eco Network Europe, is a network of experts working with various aspects of transportation, infrastructure and ecology (www.iene.info). The network was initiated in 1996 to provide an independent, international and interdisciplinary arena for the exchange and development of expert knowledge – and with the aim to promote a safe and ecologically sustainable pan-European transport infrastructure. IENE arranges international conferences, workshops and symposia, initiates collaboration projects and helps answering questions that require a joint international expertise.