By: Eric Buiter, Sr. Habitat Technician, Ontario Streams
In today’s world of constant progression, with pressures from large scale land alterations from agricultural intensification to urbanization, it seems like we humans are always on the go, always moving forward with shovel in hand. It’s no wonder how in a world that’s constantly moving forward, we tend to forget the needs of the non-humans when we build things, such as our infrastructure. Roads and bridges are designed to make our lives easier, but how do our movements affect how wildlife gets around?
Our infrastructure may be the problem, but it can also be the solution to protecting sensitive species on the move. With advancements in development and technology, we can design and build better infrastructure to support and benefit nature. We can do this by incorporating “ecopassages” into new and existing roads. These human-made structures can be used to benefit our local critters on their journeys to find new homes, migrate, or search for new areas to find food.
What is an Ecopassage and who else does it benefit?
An ecopassage is a structure designed to reduce the risk of danger while wildlife try to navigate about our busy roads. Sometimes referred to as wildlife crossings or corridors, ecopassages usually take the shape of underpass tunnels to help small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians safely move or migrate. In contrast, some ecopassages are designed as overpasses or green bridges that benefit larger or herding animals. Whether big or small, ecopassages are often used in practice by ecologists and urban designers as an effective tool to maintain or reestablish connections between habitats. This strategy is often used to mitigate habitat fragmentation or preserve known migration routes for wildlife. Another benefit to the passages is to reduce the risk of collisions between vehicles and animals, which can be a major threat to human safety. These structures can provide a range of benefits from avoiding collisions with deer, to helping protect some of our endangered reptiles and amphibians as they cross the road.
Who is our Target?
While ecopassages can benefit a wide range of species, Ontario Streams, an environmental charity based out of Aurora, Ontario, has been working closely on a special amphibian at risk, the Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum). This species of salamander has been designated “Endangered” under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act since 2011. ecologically sensitive areas, while working alongside nature, not against it.
Ontario Streams was awarded a grant from the Ontario Species At Risk Stewardship Program to learn more about Jefferson salamanders, their ecology, how to best support the recovery of the species, and the protection of its natural habitat. With these types of projects, we as humans can better understand how to design our infrastructure to be more beneficial to ecologically sensitive areas, while working alongside nature, not against it.
Project Highlights and Accomplishments
For more information, please visit Ontario Streams’ website or Facebook page. Follow Ontario Streams on Twitter or Instagram @OntarioStreams.
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