Wildlife & Traffic
A European Handbook for Identifying Conflicts and Designing Solutions
10.2 Developing an adaptive ecological asset maintenance plan
10.2.1 A process in the infrastructure life-cycle
Harmonising wildlife and transport infrastructure is a process that begins in the planning phase and must be delivered by the appropriate construction and maintenance of ecological assets. The necessary requirements for each ecological asset to facilitate maintenance through all life-cycle phases are listed in Table 2.
To neglect maintenance aspects in infrastructure design and construction may compromise the functionality of ecological mitigation during the operation phase and increase hazards to traffic safety. It may also lead to damage to protected species and sites.
10.2.2 Continuous improvement of maintenance practice
Successful maintenance strategies for ecological assets should be developed following a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) approach (see Figure 1).
To apply this adaptive strategy approach in ecological asset maintenance is particularly important due to temporal variation in species and ecosystems and increasing extreme events related to climate change.
10.2.3 Scope and aspects to be included in tenders and contracts
The scope of ecological asset maintenance plans depends on each situation and conditions. It could refer to:
- A whole regional or national transportation infrastructure network (it should be included in general maintenance guidelines).
- A single road or railway
- A single asset (such as a large landscape/green bridge, or a pond managed to enhance wildlife).
Operation and maintenance contracts are key tools to guarantee good practice. A detailed description of ecological asset maintenance SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound), standards and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) along with inclusion of suitable ecological capability within the maintenance team are requirements that should significantly improve practice. PPP (Public Private Partnership) operation and management contracts are particularly important because they are in force for long periods (decades). To establish objectives, standards and KPIs to be achieved are better than focusing on a description of tasks to be undertaken, because tasks may need to be adapted to potential new conditions.
10.2.4 Steps to develop the ecological asset maintenance plan
The maintenance plan should be developed following the steps shown in Figure 2.
Step 1 – Define elements to be maintained
The first step to develop a maintenance plan is to identify the ecological assets that require specific maintenance guidelines. At minimum the following elements should be included:
- Wildlife fences and screens
- Wildlife crossing structures
- Wildlife warning signs
- Verges and other green areas
- Ponds and other drainage elements
- Animal-vehicle collision management
Step 2 – Compile and organize information
To correctly implement a maintenance plan, all information relating to ecological assets must be compiled and organised. Existing infrastructure databases should be updated to include ecological asset information.
Online databases will allow easy access to the information and give better notice about scheduled actions to be undertaken. Remote sensing and new technologies will allow easier checking and supervisor control. When a recorded parameter is not in line with the standard conditions or corrective measures are required, alerts could be provided. Contents to be included in inventories of ecological assets are shown in Table 3. See Appendix 2. Fields to be included in the ecological asset database.
Step 3 – Draft maintenance plan
The maintenance plan is the basic document which describes objectives and actions to be undertaken. As mentioned in section 10.1 the scope of the plan can vary largely, from the whole transportation network in a country or region, to a single ecological asset.
Main contents to be included in an ‘Ecological asset maintenance plan’ are listed in Table 4.
Appropriate inspection and regular maintenance should guarantee the performance of the ecological assets and reduce the need for future ‘responsive maintenance’ (corrective measures) and investments required to restore ecological function. Tasks to be described include:
- Periodical inspections to check the appropriate state of the elements and managed areas and to test proper functioning of any
- Repair or replace damaged
- Prepare soils, manage vegetation, guarantee appropriate water management on drainage elements, remove undesired materials, apply procedures to detect and remove invasive alien species (IAS), and other activities needed to maintain appropriate ecological conditions in green areas, ponds and other aquatic or terrestrial
- Collect and provide appropriate management of animal carcasses after traffic collisions, record and analyse data allowing the implementation of corrective measures to avoid future
- Monitor tasks to assess the functionality and effectiveness of measures and actions undertaken (evaluating the achievement of standards and KPI) and compliance
- Detect deviations and conflicts (mortality of fauna observed in any section or element of the infrastructure, wildlife crossing not being used by target species, etc.) and develop procedures to apply corrective measures (‘responsive maintenance’).
Step 4 – Apply a cooperative approach
Road and railway authorities should provide platforms for cooperation with environment, water and land authorities, as well as regional and local stakeholders. Table 5. shows each stakeholder’s main concerns. Contracts, agreements and regular stakeholder meetings are some tools to establish cooperation.
Step 5 – Implement training
An ecological asset maintenance training programme should provide essential information to technical staff and field crews which improves the daily practice of ecological asset maintenance operations (see Box 1).
The main target audiences and contents to be provided are:
To field crews and technical maintenance staff
- Basic ecological concepts and goals for wildlife mitigation measures
- Basic knowledge about target flora and fauna species
- To understand importance of being alert for detecting and eradicating IAS
- How to develop wildlife-related maintenance actions and provide appropriate conditions in green areas and aquatic habitats associated with drainage elements.
- How to use devices and apply methods for recording wildlife
- To learn about ecological traps and how to identify
To transport authority staff
- Increase ability to assess compliance with the standard required, according to the infrastructure’s ecological asset maintenance
- Understand the role of maintenance and traffic regulations in road traffic accidents involving wildlife, disturbance mitigation measures and data registration of these
To transport infrastructure planners
- Incorporate ecological assets and wildlife mitigation measures into new transport infrastructure, taking account of lessons learned from monitoring undertaking by the infrastructure
Step 6 – Monitor, evaluate and report
Regular inspection tasks undertaken by maintenance teams aim to check that each mitigation measure is operating in accordance with the specified standards, legal or regulatory requirements established in the maintenance plan, and also to identify conflicts that require new corrective actions to restore appropriate performance.
The monitoring and evaluation described here is quite distinct from expert ecological monitoring to evaluate if ecological goals have been reached and maintained long term. This requires developing specific methodologies that should be designed and applied by experts. Such ecological monitoring is addressed in WT Handbook Chapter 9.
Inspection actions to be undertaken by maintenance crews are described in factsheets (see section 10.4). Some examples are:
- To inspect for damage in fencing, screens, signs,
- To ensure materials are maintained in good condition
- To check that electronic devices are functioning correctly (e.g. sensors and signs activated by ADS)
- To detect any inappropriate material or use (e.g. debris or human uses) non- compatible with functions or performance of the ecological
- To check if any animal is trapped or has died in any element of the infrastructure (e.g. fish in retention ponds, birds in the base of the screens, etc.)
- To check if the vegetation status is correct and no IAS are
- To check water quality in ponds, verify that no animals are found dead or trapped and no IAS are
- To identify hot spots of road mortality where animal carcasses are removed frequently.
All data must be recorded in a standardised way and integrated in databases established in the maintenance plan to allow proper analysis and assessment so should be readily accessible to all concerned parties (see Step 2).
Producing regular comprehensive internal reports (annually or more frequently) would play a crucial role in improving future maintenance practice and even bettering design and construction (see Box 2). Reports should identify conflicts and suitable corrective measures and would be useful to develop alternative good practice, to share relevant information with stakeholders and to encourage innovation.
At periodic intervals (e.g., 5 years), the ecological asset maintenance plan should be reviewed taking account of all improvements, new technologies and solutions identified. This wider perspective on performance and results will help guarantee continuous improvement of the practice.
Step 7 – Adapting maintenance according to results
Evaluation of ecological asset maintenance practice will optimise cost-effectiveness and lead to continuous improvement and identification of best maintenance practice.
Where deviations or conflicts are identified, corrective measures should modify current practices or apply innovative solutions. Appropriate assessment by wildlife experts will verify these modifications and solutions.
Examples of improvements are:
- If wildlife damage to fences or other wildlife mitigation measures and the species responsible for the problem are identified, reinforcements or solutions can be designed.
- Vandalism or theft of elements of ecological assets will lead to more resistant designs or materials that can be introduced along with other methods to avoid damage in the
- Impediments to maintenance of wildlife mitigation measures (e.g., designs that prevent access for maintenance; vegetation planted in a way that can potentially damage fences; ponds that cannot be cleaned with proper fauna rescue) will lead to solutions to avoid this in the
Handbooks on mitigation techniques and the cooperation of wildlife experts and other stakeholders can help to define solutions to recurring conflicts. On the other hand, disseminating information about failures and successful solutions could help to improve future practice in design, construction and maintenance of ecological assets