A integrated mapping tool for harmonizing ecological assessment and transport infrastructure planning

Effective transport infrastructure planning along with conservation of high ecological value areas, depend mostly on conducting accurate and reliable ecological assessments, for minimizing the impacts of such projects.

Producing a precise synthesis with a reliable computation of all ecological sensibilities on site requires a scientific evaluation free from individual and subjective point of view, leading too often to questionable conclusions. In most biodiversity reports, evaluation grids remain user defined on case by case basis, and these approaches are not able to generate integrated reports from a set of spatial variables, especially for areas with high data density.

Naturalia-Environnement has developed a software application for accurately ranking nature conservation areas using the official European classification references. The project described in this presentation proposes a model using geospatial parameters to create indices of ranked ecological concerns for every patch of wildlife habitats crossed by transport infrastructure.

The software uses quantitative and qualitative observations made over small landscape units to compile data and classify results through calibrated indices. The core application is a spatial data aggregation formula, where large data inputs such as habitat profile and multiple occurrences of protected flora and fauna are processed together in relation to the attribution of numeric coefficients. The system is built to provide ranked values for every taxon, apply conditional weighting factors, and calculate a cumulative index corresponding to the status of each individual habitat patch.

By applying a spatial data aggregation formula to a set of input variables, the model can produce detailed maps of ranked ecological concerns, while using calculation rules respecting the underlying concepts in biodiversity resource evaluation. The process follows a standardization and mathematical approach in order to be applied consistently when used by different people, and facilitate a balanced comparison among different territories. The traceability of the results is an inbuilt advantage of such model. The replicability of the method is ensured by the reference made to protection status lists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN), the French Natural Heritage National Inventory (INPN), and the European Nature Information System (EUNIS).

This application provides an effective and efficient operational tool that is easy to put in place, thus allowing infrastructure planning to meet conservation planning. It delivers the foundation to identify project layouts and alternatives routes that will minimize the negative impacts to the environment. 

ecological ranking; conservation concern; geospatial modeling; least impact evaluation; wildlife habitat profile; planning integration.