Wildlife & Traffic

A European Handbook for Identifying Conflicts and Designing Solutions

10 Maintenance of ecological assets on linear infrastructure
New chapter (2019)

10.2 Developing an adaptive maintenance plan

10.2.1 Leading the process throughout the infrastructure lifecycle

Road and railway authorities guarantee a transport network’s quality, but operation and management tasks may be undertaken by transport authority staff, hired maintenance companies or concessionaires operating in private public partnerships (PPP). These guidelines are for all stakeholders, to ensure a proper transport infrastructure-wildlife maintenance strategy. However, transport authorities must provide the general framework and rules for all road operators to adopt, according to the features of the road infrastructure or network. They must ensure that information flows between designers, constructors, operators and other authorities involved in ecological aspects of road and railway management, including environment, water and land planning authorities.

Figure 10.1 - Stakeholders involved in wildlife mitigation measures’ design, construction and maintenance throughout the life cycle of transport infrastructures.

The harmonisation of wildlife and transport infrastructure issues and the incorporation of wildlife regulations into operation and management begins during planning and can be achieved by constructing ecological assets and implementing mitigation measures. Information must be transferred in each step of the infrastructure lifecycle to achieve successful results (see Figure 2.1). Proper dissemination of information gathered during operation is crucial. In this phase, new conflicts could emerge that were not foreseen, and solutions could help to improve future infrastructure plans. Problems caused by inadequate materials or designs may be detected during maintenance. Transport authorities must share this information with all stakeholders, particularly those involved in planning, to ensure that future projects are improved by findings and conclusions in the operation phase.

10.2.2 Continuous improvement of maintenance practice

A framework is needed to develop successful adaptive strategies (see Figure 2.2). First, tasks, standards and goals must be defined. Then, when inspection and maintenance tasks have been established, compliance with standards and objectives should be assessed periodically.
If deviations are identified, corrective measures should by applied that modify current practices or implement innovative solutions. This process should be assessed by wildlife/ecology experts.
After changes and improvements, maintenance plans must be amended and feedback given to the infrastructure’s designers and constructors, to avoid repeating failures and mistakes.

Figure 10.2 - Adaptive ecological assets in the transport infrastructure maintenance strategy.

10.2.3 Including ecological topics in maintenance contracts

To ensure that ecological asset maintenance procedures are implemented by all stakeholders, the requirements must be included in tenders and contracts for hiring road and railway maintenance companies and concessionaires. Wildlife experts should form part of the technical team, to guarantee that the ecological perspective is included. This must be stated in tender criteria.
Detailed ecological asset maintenance prescriptions in contracts will significantly improve maintenance practices and make it easier to control the application of measures. Indicators and standards for each landscape and wildlife context are vital to identify goals and evaluate whether standards have been met. Standards enable authorities to check compliance with maintenance guidelines.
In public-private partnerships (PPP) in which a company plans, constructs and operates infrastructure for 20-30 years, the contract must establish ecological asset maintenance standards along the timeline. For adaptive management, maintenance actions must be specified in detail for the first 5 or 10 years. After this period, a review is required to adapt maintenance tasks. The prime cost sum (PC Sum) approach could be considered: a portion of the budget is allocated to wildlife issues without specifying tasks that require long-term flexibility to adapt to new conditions.

10.2.4 Planning and developing ecological asset maintenance

An ecological asset maintenance plan should be included in road and railway general maintenance guidelines (MG). Such documents provide technical prescriptions for infrastructure inspection and maintenance. Verges, awareness signs, fences or drainage are wildlife-related elements that require an ecological approach. Maintenance plans for specific ecological assets could be included as additional sections in general maintenance guidelines.
The scope of ecological asset maintenance guidelines depends on each situation and local conditions. It could be:
- the entire road or railway network in a country, state or region,
- a specific infrastructure, such as a highway,
- a specific road section e.g. that crosses a natural protected area
- an important element such as an ecoduct.
The maintenance plan should be adaptive, as shown in Figure 10.2.

Figure 10.3 - Steps to design and develop an ecological asset maintenance plan.

Step 1. Define elements to include in the maintenance plan

The main ecological assets and wildlife mitigation measures to include in general maintenance guidelines are listed below and described in the following chapters:
- Road verges and other green areas (including invasive alien species [IAS] control)
- Ponds and other drainage elements
- Wildlife crossing structures
- Wildlife fences and screens
- Wildlife warning awareness signs
- Management of road casualties and road traffic accidents involving animals

In this step, elements should be identified that could require specific maintenance plans in addition to the general maintenance guidelines. The development of ‘Guidelines for ecological maintenance of verges and other green areas’ and ‘Guidelines for wildlife crossings maintenance’ should be considered.

Step 2. Draft the maintenance plan

Maintenance plans must include a clear, simple description and schedule for inspection and maintenance tasks; information about ecological context (target species, habitats, protected natural areas, etc.), wildlife mitigation measure targets and legal requirements; and a description of general standards, according to designers’ and constructors’ instructions and road safety and operation requirements. They must also include:
- General good practice for ecological asset maintenance
- Identification of elements to be inspected and maintained and related actions. A list, location, goals, target species and habitats and standards must be provided.
- Description and schedule for inspection and maintenance tasks for each element, according to local wildlife and habitat conditions.
- Thresholds and procedures for identifying conflicts or deviations from standards and how to solve them.

Figure 10.4 - Topics to be included in the maintenance plan.

Step 3. Organize information

To implement the maintenance plan, all information on ecological assets must be organised in one database with sections on all topics. It must be easy to find the elements to be maintained and to consult and register completed and pending inspection and maintenance tasks. If the database is up-to-date, the implementation and results of the maintenance plan can be reported (see Step 7). Consider providing a website-based application for databases.

The following information should be included about each ecological asset.
- Location (coordinates, kilometric point or section for extension elements such as road verges).
- Features (including shape, dimensions, construction materials for wildlife crossings, fences or screens; features of the soil, vegetation, refuges for road verges; features of slopes and water quality for retention ponds).
- Goals and standards (standards to be checked periodically, objectives to be guaranteed for each ecological asset).
- Inspection and maintenance tasks (date, action, information gathered).
- Conflicts or deviation from standards (issues identified in inspections).

Step 4. Apply a cooperative approach

Road and railway authorities may provide platforms for cooperation with environmental, water and land authorities, as well as regional and local stakeholders. Table 2.1 shows each stakeholder’s main concerns. Contracts, agreements, commissions or regular meetings could promote cooperation.

Table 10.1 - Main stakeholders involved in maintenance of ecological assets in transport infrastructures and their concerns.

Step 5. Train

A basic step to implement best maintenance practice is to inform and train technical staff, field crews and other transport infrastructure and traffic stakeholders on wildlife and maintenance of ecological assets.

An ecological asset maintenance training programme should provide technical information on wildlife-related maintenance and background information on each action, so that technical staff can make decisions to solve conflicts.

The main target audiences and benefits are:
- Technical ecological asset maintenance staff and field crews
- Obtain practical knowledge of maintenance actions, tools and devices and methods for recording wildlife information, according to maintenance guidelines.
- Understand wildlife mitigation measures and provisions and adapt maintenance to standards.
- Road and railway authority staff
- Increase ability to assess compliance with standard requirements, according to the infrastructure’s ecological asset maintenance plan.
- Understand the role of maintenance and traffic regulations in road traffic accidents involving wildlife, disturbance mitigation measures and data registration of these events.
- Transport infrastructure planners
- Incorporate ecological assets and wildlife mitigation measures into new transport infrastructures, considering lessons learned from the infrastructure’s operators.

Step 6. Monitor, evaluate and report

Information gathered during inspection and maintenance tasks should be recorded to evaluate if wildlife mitigation measures and other ecological assets meet standards. This section deals with routine monitoring, i.e. basic controls by transport maintenance teams to compare the current state and standards. Evaluation of the ecological performance of wildlife mitigation and other assets, including registration of performance indicators for species and habitats, is addressed in other chapters (see Chapter 9 and the new chapter, Road Mitigation Strategy). Ecological monitoring to evaluate whether goals have been achieved should be designed and applied in key infrastructure sections (e.g. those crossing ecological corridors or natural protected areas) or ecological assets (e.g. strategic wildlife crossings for endangered species).

Objectives for routine monitoring of ecological assets during operation are:
- Check whether standards for technical devices (fences, scape ramps and gates, warning signs, etc.) are met.
- Check vegetation and other ecological asset features against standards.
- Collect information to implement adaptive maintenance practices.
- Update all relevant wildlife information that could affect traffic safety and road management.
- Evaluate which practices provide the most benefits at the lowest cost.

Table 10.2 lists the basic information to register. Data registration must be standardised, as established in the maintenance plan, to allow analysis and assessment. Inventories and databases must be developed to integrate all data on wildlife and ecological assets.

Table 10.2 - Information that should be registered to monitor and evaluate the functioning of ecological assets and wildlife mitigation measures.

Teams including wildlife professionals should assess ecological asset monitoring activities, as expert knowledge about fauna and habitat management is required.
A final step is drafting reports to help understand failures, re-design practices and change road maintenance strategies or practices when required. Reports should contain monitoring results and be disseminated to maintenance staff and other stakeholders. At least one annual report must be drafted, but tthe number, periodicity and contents of reports could vary depending on the scope of the maintenance plan and the habitats and species involved.
At 5-year intervals, the ecological asset maintenance strategy should be reviewed. Assessment procedures should establish that feasible alternative practices are required to achieve standards, solve conflicts and identify positive and negative effects.

To coordinate compliance monitoring with environmental monitoring, regular meetings based on the reports can be held for stakeholders. Forums should be organised to share information about conflicts and find solutions.

Step 7. Adapt maintenance according to results

Analysis of ecological asset maintenance practice will increase cost-effectiveness and lead to continuous improvement and identification of best maintenance practices.

Examples of improvements in the framework and adaptive management are:

  • - When wildlife damage to fences or other wildlife mitigation measures and the species responsible for the problem are identified, reinforcements or solutions can be designed.
  • - When vandalization or theft of elements of ecological assets are identified, more resistant designs or materials can be introduced along with other methods to avoid damage.
  • - When aspects that impede maintenance of wildlife mitigation measures (e.g. designs that prevent access to places where maintenance is required; vegetation planted in a way that damages fences; ponds that cannot be cleaned with proper fauna rescue) are determined, such failures can be avoided in the future.

Handbooks on mitigation techniques and the cooperation of wildlife experts and other stakeholders can help to define solutions to recurring conflicts. Information about successful solutions and failures can improve future maintenance practices, design and construction.