Linear infrastructure is essential for connecting society: our systems of roads, railways, pipelines, canals, and power lines all serve to link our cities, developments and resources, and our energy and water supplies. Therefore, it is perhaps ironic that linear infrastructure does exactly the opposite for natural systems – by crisscrossing landscapes, linear infrastructure serves to fragment ecosystems, isolate populations, reduce natural flows, and constrain animal movements. Transportation infrastructure poses direct threats to species from collisions and indirect threats by increasing access by people to previously untapped resources.
In many ways, Africa represents the final frontier for infrastructure development. Her population has doubled in the last three decades and currently stands at 1.3 billion. As populations and economies grow, they require greater investments in infrastructure. Over the next few decades, we will need significant investments in railways, roads, energy, and other infrastructure to meet the growing demands of emerging African economies. Foreign investors and domestic interests are developing plans to build this infrastructure to meet internal and export needs and desires. These new challenges have influenced the evolution of the African Conference on Linear Infrastructure and Environment and more recently the Global Congress on Linear Infrastructure and Environment.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Transport Programme is working to reduce the negative impacts of transport infrastructure on biodiversity. We will present our work over the past decade studying potential and existing impacts and discuss opportunities to build on lessons from elsewhere in the globe – to find the sweet spot between economic growth and ecological resilience before irreversible damage is done throughout the African continent.