Transportation Ecology Challenges in a Biodiversity Hotspot: Addressing California's Rare, Threatened, Endangered and Special Species and Habitats

Julie Owen, California Department of Transportation
Topic Area
Planning for Transportation Ecology

California is the third largest state and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) maintains 6 interstate highways and 265 state routes within its borders. That is approximately 15,181 road miles (244,432 km), 12,000 bridges and many, many more culverts that it must maintain to ensure safety, health, stewardship, efficiency, sustainability, livability, economy, and system performance.
California is also a biodiversity hotspot. A large part of California's biodiversity is a result of the number of native plant species in the state. California currently boasts over 6500 native plant taxa with about 30% of those plants occurring nowhere else in the world. In conjunction with the large number of native plants in California comes a large number of rare plants as well. The California Fish and Wildlife tracts nearly 2400 rare plant taxa in their California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) of which 299 are protected under statute. California also has its share of endangered and threatened animals' species with a total 155 animals ranked as federal or state endangered or threatened. These species are often reliant on special plant communities of which 169 are considered imperiled or critically imperiled.
This is where the road ecology challenges begin. In order to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system that also doesn't degrade the environmental or violate environmental laws Caltrans has to work internally and externally to evaluate and minimize impacts to the natural environment. Internally a biologist works within the environmental unit but they also must coordinate with design, construction, maintenance, landscape, and right of way, to name a few. Externally, they must coordinate with numerous resource agencies, address numerous permitting requirements and provide mitigation where impacts cannot be avoided. This poster will illustrate these road ecology challenges.

Abstract Keywords
road ecology